Episode 44: Effective SEO site audits with Aleyda Solis

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What's in this episode?

In this episode, you'll hear Mark Williams-Cook talk to SEO consultant, author and speaker, Aleyda Solis about what it takes to make a truly effective SEO site audit that delivers outcomes instead of reports.

Mark and Aleyda dive into the importance of technical, content and links within audits, their context to the business and how to get that all-important client buy-in.


MC: Welcome to episode 44 of the Search with Candour podcast! Recorded on Wednesday the 15th of January 2020. My name is Mark Williams-Cook and today I am joined by a founder of... I'm gonna let you say it so I get it right…

AS: Orainti.

MC: Orainti and international SEO consultant Aleyda Solis. Aleyda is actually doing a talk at Search Norwich this evening about developing actionable and impactful SEO audits and she's been kind enough to give up some more of her time to join me on this podcast and dive into that a little bit more.

SEO consultant, speaker, youtube series host and you’ve just restarted your email for SEO tips so thank you very much for finding the time to do this on top of all of that as well. I've got a few things on a start with you to talk about, so we've got some questions from listeners which we'll go over later but I thought it'd be a nice place to start because this came up earlier, a few episodes ago in the podcast which is just about technical SEO in general. So we were discussing and I was saying I used to think several years ago that technical SEO in 2020 maybe would be less important than it was in 2010 as search engines got smarter, their technology improved, they could crawl the web and there'd be no problems and I feel almost the opposite has happened now. We've got these JavaScript frameworks that are causing issues and it seems to be almost like a golden age of tech SEO. Do you agree with that?

AS: Indeed. It's funny that you mentioned this because I think that many years ago actually when Penguin happened for example if you remember that everybody knows but a lot of people, at the points which even they've rebranded, many SEOs adding this to be content marketing instead of a SEOs right and online PR this type of thing and there was a trend at that point and I was seeing it, I was like saying, telling myself like, no I'm not doing that. SEO is SEO and then at that point, I imagined SEO not necessarily becoming more technical because a lot of the trends were like, yes search engines are much more capable.

MC: Content is king.

AS: Indeed, content is king. But no you're completely right since a few years ago, these last few years and I think that we need to thank all this to JavaScript frameworks…


MC: For keeping us in work.

AS: A lot of front-end developers who I think that is not necessarily - I don't know how to put this in a way that doesn't actually sound bad - but it's old school, right? Like learning the ropes of web development with simple HTML and CSS, but a lot of people who are learning now end up learning it directly with a JavaScript framework or people who used to work as a back end type of developer that ended up needing also to do the front end. So accessibility particularly it's not necessarily some of the priorities there or web standards but yes indeed, I think that right now there's a new wave of the need of a better understanding because of all of this complexity and is actually becoming more technical. I think not only because of JavaScript and the necessity of understanding how JavaScript frameworks work in order to better advise clients or developers that we work with in case we are in-house specialist - to make sure that they are crawlable, indexable, etc. but also there's another wave in parallel I fear of discovering the opportunity to automate a lot of the tasks that took a lot of work with for example Python.

MC: That’s really in fashion now.

AS: And there's a lot of going on indeed of trying to automate a lot well what else - so yes I see these two trends going on and it's actually pretty exciting because I do really believe that of course, if we want to be able to keep updated and be able to advise, you don't need to know how to develop a website from scratch, whether JavaScript works but it's important that you understand how it works in order to be able to speak and advise and to have a conversation and to validate together and to align your work in a way that is actually relevant and connect with the way that developers work on one hand.

Then on the other hand regarding learning Python or whatever language realistically JavaScript can use to automate stuff. realistically for many - it depends a little bit on who your clients are because if you work for smaller ones you can do a little bit of everything and maybe you have more accessibility to do automation yourself and they like you to touch a little bit of the code.

Originally for many of us, you have clients that are bigger, they have their own proper development department and there's no way that any of my clients would allow me to try to at least myself - even if I could, but yes it's good to understand and to identify that there are ways to automate many of the otherwise very difficult to scale tasks especially if there's the capacity to do it.

MC: Just to interrupt a bit there, you mentioned working with larger clients with in-house development teams…

AS: Yes.

MC: And I think probably most SEOs have had the experience where you speak to a stakeholder at a business and talk to him about the value of SEO and you highlight some of the things maybe where they're falling down and they're like, okay brilliant we need to get you in and then there's that meeting... where you're wheeled into the development team and this is the SEO and it's met sometimes with…

AS: This is the SEO!

MC: Yeah. It's not met by rounds of applause by developers, so do you have any tips on how as technical SEOS we can bridge that gap between developers and win their buy-in and trust in what we're doing, the process. MC: Yes 100% I think that it's important to understand, to be willing and an open as an SEO to understand what is the workflow; how do they work, why do they work like that, how is the decision making process from a product perspective because at the end of the day many of the developers also end up doing what the product manager requests and what they have gotten approval to do and resources for.

So sometimes it's not because the developer doesn't want to put time on improving, for example, how the navigation is implemented right it's because there are so many other requests that end up waiting for more or are prioritised internally, so I think it's critical that we use this project management type of principle, good practices that are out there in order to well first to understand the requirements, the context of how it'll work, any restrictions that we don't assume, I think that that is a little bit about the way we communicate things. Oh, there's this issue and sometimes we assume too much and that and we are not empathetic enough to do to be willing to understand that, it's not because they don't know or that they don't want to but sometimes because they are in this organisation or platforms where there are a lot of restrictions and boundaries and sometimes there's no way to do things or to implement things in the ideal way that we will like from an SEO perspective, so there are always trade-offs and we need to identify the best possible balance.

So yes I really believe that all of this start when we are selling the SEO process to the client, validating that there's a right fit with a client, not for SEO in general which is, of course, important that they are willing to wait, that they are flexible and have capacity - from a technical and content perspective - to do things. They are willing to wait and they can wait to see results all of those sorts of things but also the way that we work connects well or we are willing to align the way we work with the way that the organisation tends to work.

For example, if they launch something, they have sprint's for a week, we need to be willing to be able to launch really fast and to coordinate in a way that we can validate in a test environment, like, I don't know on a Tuesday to make sure that the launching that happened on Thursday will be well validated and then we crawl again or test again, validate again, right after so it's important that we understand how the organisation works, why things are the way they are, who have been the traders in the past that we also are willing to educate, to evangelise,

For example whenever I start with a client where there hasn't been an SEO process at all in the past, I always proposed to do a webinar, to do a lot of training, besides doing the SEO best practices for development team, for the content team and share it together and explain why and the importance of it and the impact that our recommendations also have, not only for SEO and our own good but also for their own work and and the ability of their own work to achieve, to desire impact at the end of the day. So it's also beneficial for them and should also be profitable for their own goals, so I think this is critical.

I think that you mentioned the wave of technical SEO which is important also to be able to do things in a way that are more effective because of the complexity of current frameworks and the necessities sometimes to ultimate things. I don't know if you were there, but I did this presentation at BrightonSEO last year about why SEO processes fail and it all began with this poll that I did and most of the reasons that SEOs gave, I got more than 500 answers right, were around execution. It's not a problem that we sometimes reach a point that we are not able to analyse or to identify the cost of the challenges for growth or what is the cause of this not growing as expected, but having the capacity, the flexibility, and the resources to actually execute things or that things are executed, so for that it is very helpful of course to be able to automate stuff as much as possible, whenever doable, but of course in many organisations they are not necessarily going to let you do that, at least not directly, but work with developers or engineers who are able to implement that in any case.

But I think that there's a lot of room to improve or to be willing to understand more and learn more and apply more private management best practices - what I was talking about before about collecting and validating requirements, validating that there's a good fit right from the start, a good communication process, a good documentation process and a good validation process, monitoring process too, so it requires a lot of work because there are tons of different areas involved to make this happen, it's not only the development team. It’s the content team, the PR team sometimes, so it's important and critical, so I think that a huge chunk of that and part of that, in order to achieve your success and improve especially for more complex - of course if it is your own affiliate website maybe you don't need this, but for larger and more complex type of SEO processes - SEO project management and these types of principles are key.

MC: So I think you raised some really really good points. I mean one that stuck out to me there was I saw a friend of mine who works in-house, Richard Shove and when he was being asked about ‘what do SEO agencies get wrong when they're engaging with clients?’ and he said one of the things was they get these audits land on their desk, sometimes quite harshly written like say you know this is wrong, this is wrong and he said you know you've made assumptions that we don't know this, we know this, we know our SEO but there's technical debt reasons, there’s staffing issues, there’s other priorities, we need internal buy-in.

It's a lot more complex than just writing it down and then it's been done and interesting there you covered a lot there, but you were talking already there about we moved from a question about kind of developers on to content teams, on to PR, which slot nicely into the other kind of pillars of SEO, so our technical SEO, our on site content and our outreach efforts and when someone mentions SEO audits you know 90% of time you think technical stuff but obviously all of these things you know, the technical, you're not going to have SEO success with just a good technical audit, it needs to fall in line with the right content, presented the right way and you need to let people know it exists again because if you're writing great content and nobody knows about it’s not going to do anything.

All of these things do need looking at and lots of companies we've worked with need help with these things as well. So what are your thoughts on - because I've seen you know all types of audits from free automated audits to great audits to a thousand page document that covers everything technical, content, links, so what your thoughts on how we should present audits, in terms of these three pillars of SEO? Should they all be one document? Should they be separate? because they will lean on each other but the corresponding teams we speak to have got quite a narrow interest, so a content person doesn't want to know normally about href articles or canonicals.

AS: So I think that there are two sides of this; what you analyse and how you present and format the outcome of your analysis for actionability and so how you deliver that analysis, the outcome to your clients or stakeholders in the project.

There are two sides of this, from the side of what you analyse, again oh my god the typical “it depends” SEO but for example, you won't do and it's not necessary to do the same type of link profile analysis on link polarity analysis for an SEO process that is just starting and you really want to achieve certain growth per year and it's going to be an ongoing SEO process versus a t one time validation for a migration that is very specific, so again it depends of the nature of the project in hand. What is the goal that is desired to be achieved and based on that to align and connect the areas that you actually need to validate to achieve that result, so here I think that is critical that we, for the analysis, that we ask what is the type of project? What is the nature of the project? What do we want to achieve? Is this on-going or a one-time thing? What is success? What does success look like for the client? Is it to not lose traffic after the migration or is it 200 percent year-over-year growth or something like that after six months or 12 months or something like that, so it's important that we align the audit accordingly.

But I have to say, in most cases, I don't know it will be very unlikely that we only need to validate the technical area or the technical side to be able to have a proper understanding of the opportunities and challenges that could be affecting what needs to be improved to achieve results, so in most cases I will say - unless it's something even for migration as that could be considered something super technical, I would of course validate the incoming links, the incoming external links to all of the pages of the website, to be able to understand which are those pages are not maybe generating that much for rankings right now but very good share of popularity.

There was a piece many years ago that attracted lots of links and that needs to be really migrated and well integrated within the new website structure for example or I want to understand even if I am not going to do an ongoing SEO process to actually improve the rankings of the website over time, I really want to understand which are the top pages star ranking for the top queries that are much more valuable from an SEO perspective and conversion perspective and business perspective to prioritise so, I want to do a little bit of our rankings analysis to understand those queries, to make sure that the new versions of those pages are as relevant, at least as a current ones so for those queries, to not lose on relevance for for them and to be able to keep those rankings.

So you see even for something that could be considered technical, it's important to analyse the link profile, the career rankings, etc. - so I will say it's important to understand the context of the reason and the reason why the website is not being able to achieve the desired results in rankings. In most cases that means not only to analyse the technical side of it but also the content, also the links and to tie them all together and I think that this is also critical in order to prioritise.

For example let's imagine maybe the client says, look these recommendations are great I agree but I have no capacity - and this has happened to me in the past - to do any redirects or to touch redirects over the next six months because I have this restriction and I cannot, so recommend me something else to do with the meantime that will give me results please.

MC: Was it pray?

AS: Anyway I think that all of us have suffered from this type of issue, so it's important to be able to prioritise and there are going to be aspects, depending on the project nature, that could be from the technical side that might have more weight because of the current situation of the website. In other cases it would be more linked related if it is a competitive sector and the website has a good platform that has been optimised in the past or content related, more sophisticated type of needs in order to achieve results, not the fundamental technical optimisation.

So, I think that a really good SEO audit should be able to take as much as possible into consideration to come up with the stronger type and a more complete analysis based on the websites own specific situation and to be able to prioritise according to the options you have, to have more options to prioritise from, based on the business needs but that is the analysis. Another thing is how you format those opportunities or challenges into a document that you deliver to your client, to be easily understood and actionable and to be implemented.

Of course you don't want to go through the content type of recommendations with the developers, they don't care about those and they are not going to have any influence of those at the end of the day, so I will say that maybe you want to have a complete document that you want to deliver to your main contact point in the organisation. If whenever the client or the main stakeholder/ decision maker of the project approves you and says okay, we are going with this and these are going to be the KPIs and these are going to be the goals that we are going to follow - in the the next steps you really want to split those, based on the people that you are going to be actually talking about and with the copywriters or the content writers in charge, you are going to share only the content related recommendations and actions and share them, to go through them and clarifying it and to set an action plan with them, but you are unlikely to want to share them with others and I do believe that split is important at that point.

The same with the development type of or technical type of recommendations with the development team, you don't want to mix the contents there, why do they need to end up having like a 100 page documents, if they can have a 25 one that has the actual things things that they need to do. So yes, indeed, I think that at that point as an outcome with each a specific area is good to have this in place.

MC: So I think what you've explained in really nice detail and clarity there is, the process in which you would go through doing an audit that is focused on outcomes rather than just producing a report at the end of the day, because I've seen people do technical SEO audits and maybe prioritise things that were technically wrong, but you could see in context to everything else that fixing that issue probably actually isn't going to do anything.

So to give an example, a real example of something you've brought up there. we're working with a client at the moment who is migrating to a new website and they wanted us to help them with the technical SEO process for this and the new website, if you look at it on its own is technically sound, but one of the things we picked up is a lot of their traffic comes from a specific ‘how to’ section on their site which is in the main menu and everything's linked like one click from the home page and in the new proposed site, this would be like three or four clicks away, so we brought it up to them that, well a lot of your traffic is coming from this and even if we redirect everything because these pages will be deeper in the hierarchy, they won't be as important so that would risk the traffic there. So I think that's a good example of how you have to overlay technical considerations, like you say, in context with all the other things to come out with good decisions.

AS: I do believe that is super critical and important to be able to prioritise because of this, because they are nice to have and to have like the perfectly optimised website, we will never end I think in order to achieve that right, but there are other things, there are certain aspects that definitely need to be done as soon as possible, to actually be able to see the results and indeed, I do believe that in most cases we can ask our client what do you consider to be the outcome? Why do you hire me? What is the outcome of the SEO audit that you want? Is a document or to be the input or the driver of that SEO process that will achieve results. So for me having an audit and this is the thing right, some audits will be 100 pages but will be full of blah blah blah and three actionable activities that will make the change, will do all change or do most of the change will be the ones that will move the needle of traffic to that website. So why don’t you add all of this, the 90 validations that you have done that I don't need to do anything about or like I won't anyway because they are trivial for my growth, so give me those and for me 20 pages of outcome - if with these turning pages the results are going to be achieved, give it.

I mean I don't know why the length of the document should be something or a KPI or a goal or something like that and especially if we know that there is a need to see results fast or if there has been a loss of traffic and and the website really wants to change the train right away, so why will you waste a month, going through every single validation possible just to put together a document that will be 100 pages, if you will actually end up only applying for that particular case to change the trend, what can be explained 20 or something like that. So for me, it's about achieving the results at the end, to be practical from that sense and then of course being able to prioritise what is in those 20 and in a way, that is actually easy to to implement and it's doable, it is possible for for the website, so prioritising based on the impact and also the complexity of the action is critical too and that can only happen with a proper understanding of the organisation and the business.

MC: Well I guess there’s technical complexity and there's political complexity.

AS: Of course, if it depends on people and decision-making of the people and approval of the people for resources, all of this “it depends” - it will be much harder to completely automate at any point.

MC: Yeah, so one thing we haven't touched on much is you know I feel as you've kind of said earlier that tools we use for SEO have become more important over the years, because I think SEO has got in some ways harder and with more competition between SEOs, it's is about how quickly and effectively we can complete a task, so I think that's one of the things I noticed sometimes when I look at people starting SEO and people who've been doing it longer that they may do the same job but someone with more experience or with a tool can do so much more, a lot quicker. So what kind of tools do you use in your audit process? Are you using off-the-shelf stuff we've got? Have you got any of your own sheets and scripts? What is the Aleyda tool box?

AS: I have a mix and always try to have at least a couple of different data sources for the same type of analysis or validation, just to be able to verify if the outcome is correct or at least it's online because it's very unlikely that it will be 100% the same and this is something that I think we need to embrace in SEO and because I have also seen people going overly crazy regarding, oh my god but the positions are personalised and the report here says that it is in position one, but realistically if I search with this IP, it's not position one but position two and yes, there are ads in this location, there are no ads here, there are maps in this one, there’s a knowledge of this through the impact, we cannot try a thing… the f-word doesn't pay off. We try to be 100% accurate but it's almost impossible at this point because of the personalisation of what is actually shown by Google. But then at the end of that, I think that always having different data sources and also to try to achieve that the trends should be correlated and have consistency among different other sources.

So for example, for keyword research, I really like to use SemRush and SISTRIX and competition analysis, I use them both too. I always double-check a little bit with what we consider the official data source, that is one of cool AdWords that I use mostly for this, not necessarily for ads that I don't do and then for technical optimisation and content analysis, I use Botify, I use Ryte and I also use a mix of different features that are found across all different type of tools. For example for cognitiveSEO, they have this really really nice content analyser where for any query that you include, you can not only get a top 10 ranked pages for mobile or desktop, but they actually include all the link metrics, the content, the length of content, all the semantically related terms for the query that they are running for and you can easily compare them with yours, so you can quite easily assess what the gap is - regarding content, regarding the link profile to, they also show the link profile and how it’s supposedly optimised.

They give you a metric but this is the thing for me the metric is ok, I mean it's a reference to have that, but what I actually to see is that they can facilitate a lot for me, that analysis of identifying the gap of my website versus the competitors to be able to understand what it is, is it the length of the content? Is it the format of the content? Are the terms or how the semantically read connected keywords are included across content for relevance or is because of the link profile of that particular page internal/external, is it because of the overall domain type of authority? So all of these different metrics that I can easily validate together.

So this is the thing, a lot of people in the past, I want to clarify this I think this is very relevant at this point and I was teaching at this SEO course in Madrid, in Spain where I was involved in this SEO training and there was one of the students who raised the hand when I was explaining how to do some things like, well you know SEO, it is only using a lot of tools and I was saying, yeah but it's important to know how to use it. This is critical because the most important tool is our own brain, to be able to connect how all of these metrics work together, what you should actually do about that with that information that you're getting, so yeah that is fundamental.

Sorry it is so easy for me to start talking about something else but just to finish, Botify has this - a lot of people think about it like a purely technical, that's a crawler - but they do really nice work also from the content assessment and I'm connecting that welder on traffic and and raw data from Google search console the same with Ryte and I also love with Ryte the way that the metrics are displayed, so you can put them in context again; so it's oh this,page has thin content issues or content implication issues across all these others but which is the one that is actually extracting traffic? What is the one that has most of the external links going to? So I love this integration of data from different data sources, external tools, all put together to be able to assess and say which is the one that should be actually the canonical one that I should keep, so that facilitates a lot of decision-making and optimisation process.

So with Ryte, I love how they connect all the data for that, so yeah for technical optimisation I use them both and then for run tracking and monitoring, I use also a couple - SEOmonitor, that is great because they show the evolution for a given set of keywords, also putting into consideration your competitors and you can also connect Google Analytics and Google search console, to be able to also see the impact on traffic. They also have this really nice serve features tracking, so you can easily see connected with your ranking fluctuations, whenever you have dropped. So for example you were shown with a video result or thumbnail and you are not anymore, you’ve dropped from the carousel, so you can see that all of that historical data in a really nice way and also you can put that easily in context there with your competitors, so you can see the share of visibility for any group of terms in mobile and desktop versus your competitors. They also have this feature for projections that is actually pretty nice, that you need to use carefully of course but it's also nice to have there.

The Rank Ranger, what they do pretty well - just to finish sorry…

MC: Go, go.

AS: Okay they do have this really really nice integration. Now that I have been playing much more with YouTube, with all of the serve features and the way that they are able to tell you for example, your specific ranking fluctuations inside the carousel, the video carousel - it's really nice. Then you understand how for example freshness has an impact for a page and you can do that if it is for video purposes and you can connect your website, you can tie your website with your own YouTube channel, so you can see in the same report those fluctuations of your own website versus your YouTube channel in case you have your video in both and see what is the weight of one or the other.

They also have this features tool that tells you which are the rankings of most of the pages that are included as a feature snippet, so they have all these little functionalities that can be found in some tools like Rank Ranger. Even if they are run tracker, it's hard to find in all the some vice versa, sometimes I find very nice little features in some tools, that is why you have many tools because instead of having one that has it all, I have seen that unfortunately there's no specific one that has it all and is the best for everything, I need to have different ones for each.

Sorry, I’ve realised I haven't said anything for link analysis and cognitive SEO. So, Cognitive SEO they work with majestic link data and they have this amazingly beautiful, well segmented reports that facilitate analysis so much and you can import your own links to from Google search console from SemRush, any other link data source there and consolidate them all together and they really facilitates to identify link spam and natural patterns and you can also compare them rather easily with your competitors for every type of metric or segmentation that you want to do.

MC: Wow, a lot of tools.

AS: Yes, I’m a tool addict.

MC: I think the takeaway there is not to get to committed to any one tool; use tools that do the same thing to validate the data you're getting, to use multiple data sets from analytics from search console if you can with those tools as well, to help you give other context as well and I found personally that in their birth, a tool would set out to do one thing - and then it would get popular and they add on and on and on and on. So you've got some tools that do one thing really well, but they have other features that aren't so great. So I tend to still use sets of tools, like I won't name any one, but there's tools that I use for a specific task and they've got twenty other features and I ignore them because when you compare them to the leaders in that field they aren’t as good.

AS: This is the thing, I have this feeling and I can understand from a decision-making perspective also if I was the business owner, that they need to grow somehow and then they realise that they don't want to have all the eggs in a single back to etc. but at the end of the day, this is how they were born and this is in some cases but if they started as a keyword research tool, that is what they’re strongest for.

If now they have links, they have all of this or they have a crawler, they have whatever but I don't use them for that because for that I will use the tool that started as a technical SEO tool and one that has all the strengths from that side. I completely agree with that indeed.

MC: We are already at 38 minutes, so I'm going to ask you some listener questions that we got in. So just before you came, I tweeted out that you’re going to be here and to see if anyone has any questions. The first response I got was from Simon Wharton, who's director of business strategy at push on and he says: “Aleyda is my favorite ever SEO speaker, the quality of her presentations and the sheer volume of knowledge she shares is overwhelming” - he didn't actually have a question...

AS: Thank you very much.

MC: He just wanted to say that so I thought I’d share it.

AS: Thank you so much, that’s so kind. Yeah I really do appreciate it when people say something like that because it makes me keep pushing. As you say, I have so much going on that it can be difficult.

MC: We have got some actual questions. So actually related to what you're just talking about, about toxic backlinks. So from Twitter, KC Moore said, “are the automated tools on site audits to reduce toxic backlinks effective?”

AS: Well I have to say, they can really facilitate at the end of the day the identification and segmentation of the patterns because of the analysis about that. The patterns definitely show that those links are not natural and indeed, I feel this will do really nice work identifying those patterns. If they are all coming from websites that are not the best quality nature, they are all linked together or only have links within their content or they are coming from the same IP classes, things like that. So yes they can, I will say accelerate the analysis a lot, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't validate the outcome of that.

MC: So I shouldn’t just copy and paste them straight into the disavow tool?


AS: Oh my god no, you can't do that. This is very funny but you can end up disavowing a lot of links on websites that are completely okay and are actually completely spontaneous and natural light and shouldn't be disavowed.

I get why people get a little bit stressed and super scared of this because you tend to disavow when you're not in a good position, but at the end of the day we need to take this or see this from a reasonable perspective. If the share of these links are 1% of your total share of links, if 99% of your links are ok and there are people who ask me sometimes, oh Aleyda but I have these links from China, should I disavow them? Why do I have links for China? It's like, oh my god really? If you were disavowing every single link that doesn't come from your own language, you will end up disavowing, I don't know, really good, high quality ones at some point that may have found your content really useful and they endorse your content because of that.

So yeah at the end of the day, use the tools; they can accelerate a lot of the work but please validate, they will check that what they have actually found is correct and most of these tools actually I think that they will warn about it and they will show and they will allow you to reclassify the link, so you are able to have your final list of actual spammy links, that you have been able to validate within their own interface.

MC: Cool. I think it is an important thing. A couple of things I've heard recently, earlier last year, I didn't actually know and this might be helpful for people listening and that is if you do disavow links and then you update the disavow file, you can undisavow links which I didn't know. Originally when they spoke about the disavow tool, it sounded like once they're gone, they're gone.

The other thing that I don't really have a conclusion on, I spoke about it actually in the last episode when someone was talking about links, because my view has always been that I rarely use the disavow tool because the theory was and from what Google was saying was if we identify spammy links we will discount them, okay we won't count them, but we won't apply like a negative for that. So my theory was, well if Google knows the links are bad and it’s going to be discounting them, therefore if I discount links that may not be great but Google hasn't classified as spam, that's actually gonna retract from my link profile so it's only unless I've got a penalty or something, like a potential negative.

But then I updated my thinking because I've seen Google a couple of times now say - and both these things, they're not contradictory - which is they take into account your whole link profile; so there will be a set of links which they may give you credit for which look low-quality, but then if you keep getting lots and lots of low-quality links they may reassess those and I guess on a probability nature say, actually these are probably intentionally bad and then you may suddenly lose value from a lot of those links.

AS: That’s worth taking into consideration at one point because there was not this volume factor going on.

MC: Exactly and it would be interesting because I don't think that’s going to get flagged as a penalty in Search Console, but you will most likely see a dip in ranking. So I'm still, like you said, it's a real case-by-case basis and using those tools just to highlight what percentage, are they growing and where they're coming from and yeah, if they are Chinese get someone to read what the anchor text is, maybe it's a good thing!

So lastly, I've got two other questions for you. I'm gonna combine them into one question because I think they overlap a lot. So again from Twitter we had Lyndon NA, I don't know a lot about Lyndon, I talked to him a fair bit, he has a Darth Vader avatar, he asked a whole bunch of questions but I picked this one out, he said “are there any reliable or effective shortcuts for quick overviews in terms of audits?” and I think it would be worth listening to through LinkedIn. We've got one other question that I think relates to this so, this is from Ryan Roberts who's the SEO lead Zazzle Media and he said, “I'd be interested to know if Aleyda goes into an audit with a preconception of what the potential issues are based on things like the industry or the platform and your history of dealing with similar sites, or is it always just let the audit process tell all?”

AS: Really good questions and yes, they overlay at the end of the day. Of course if a website from I don't know, the casino or poker service sectors came to you, I would right away go and check the link profile of the websites even if I am not a link builder myself.

You know if these are very old schools from certain industries, you know more or less which are the main challenges that this particular industry suffers from, like can I display a website because of the Google updates targeting certain topics to each related type of principles etc. so yes, I think that of course I would, it wouldn't be fair to say I don't have any preconceptions when a website comes to me, but I try to keep an open mind because unfortunately sometimes there are just coincidences out there.

So just to give you an example, yesterday I was helping with a migration that hopefully goes well because it's well validated, yes, but if not imagine it is at the same time of the latest Google update, so if nobody has taken care of that migration, it got bad, it goes bad and you will assume that is an effect of the latest update. So you should never assume, it's always important to double-check but just for a quick overview, what I always do is take a look a little bit of the trend of the rankings in SemRush, which are the top ranked keywords to see that the ups and downs evolution that we can see rather easily, to see the growth of organic rankings versus the competitors because that can tell me if they are dropping in rankings, what can be seen from our organic traffic perspective as a loss, it's just an industry trend or is this another thing or something like that?

Just double check and see the evolution and then I check, in SemRush, the queries are being ranked and what are the pages that are ranked? Because sometimes, something is a thing, the website is so powerful and so derivative that it's not that they are losing traffic like crazy, they’re still ranking for some important keywords, but then you realise that the pages are ranking for them are not the correct ones. There are a lot of cannibalisation issues between different pages that are not necessarily consistent, the ones that should actually be ranking for those queries. So I think that a lot can be, as a quick overview, can be identified and saved very quickly by seeing the rankings of those websites overall, not only if they are ranking well in the top position for top queries, but how they are doing that, with which pages, the trend of those rankings and of course, a little crawl with Screaming Frog never hurt. Everybody just double-check. So the typical thing that I have open is SemRush in one screen and Screaming Frog on the other, yeah the crawl is very quick.

MC: Yeah, it’s very good, the instant feedback. I've done that on phone calls before when people have phoned to talk to me about SEO and as soon as they've said the website, I'll start to crawl - yes I can see during the conversation with them about what's going on.

Aleyda, thank you so much. There is a lot there for people to pick through I think, thank you so much for your time I really appreciate it, look forward to hearing your talk this evening.

AS: Thank you for the opportunity and I'm sorry, oh my god, for talking too much because I tend to.

MC: It’s brilliant, it’s what people are here for. So we will be back with episode 45, next Monday which will be the 27th of January. As usual you can get all of the show notes, links and transcription of this episode at and if you're reading online, don't forget you can subscribe on pretty much any platform, whether its iOS or Spotify. Have a great week.

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