Or get it on:
Jack & Olga join forces to discuss SEO audits (Olga's favourite topic!) including:
Jack: Welcome to episode 40 of season two of the Search With Candour Podcast. I am your host for this week, Jack Chambers Ward. And it's a really, really interesting episode. I am very excited. Not only have we hit 40, which is a fantastic number, we're also going to be talking to the one, the only Olga Zarr. Olga is a really, really knowledgeable technical SEO, and we're going to be diving into all things SEO audits, which for my money, Olga is the person to go to, and one of the people I have learned the most about SEO auditing in the SEO world. So I've got the right person for the job to talk about SEO auditing on this episode.
Before I get to my chat with Olga, of course I need to say thank you to the wonderful people at SISTRIX who support this show. Because Search With Candour, of course, is supported by the wonderful folks over SISTRIX, that is the SEO's toolbox. You can go to SISTRIX.com/swc if you want to check out some of their fantastic free tools. Such as their SERF snippet generator, hreflang validator, checking out your site's visibility index, and the all important Google update tracker.
As I said at the start of the show, Olga Zarr is one of the people I have learnt the most about SEO auditing from. I will leave links to everything of course, that we talk about throughout this episode at search.withcandour.co.uk. The link for that is in the show description, so you can find that nice and easily. There will be links to some of Olga's fantastic blog posts, all about SEO auditing, and we'll kind of be discussing them throughout the episode as well. So without any further ado, here is my talk about SEO audits with the one, the only Olga Zarr.
h3>SEO audits with Olga Zarr
So without any further ado, welcome to the show, Olga Zarr.
Olga: Welcome. Hi, I'm very happy to be here.
Jack: Thank you very much for joining me. It's absolute pleasure to have you on. I know you and I have interacted on Twitter a couple of times, and funny enough chatted about SEO, chatted about podcasting a couple of times as well. So for the listeners who don't know who you are, why don't you give us a little bit of an intro and we'll... before we launch into our interesting topic for this week?
Olga: Sure. So my name is Olga. I run seosly.com. So this is my website and the name of my consulting, small consulting business. So I am a technical SEO specialist. I've been in SEO for more than 10 years now, and I mostly do SEO consulting, SEO audits, and everything technical SEO. And I've been listening to your show for a very long time, so it's super, super nice to be finally your guest.
Jack: It's very cool to have you on, because I think you are the first person to share the podcast on like an SEO podcast list kind of thing after I joined the show. So it's a very nice moment for me to see the like, oh, people do actually care about... It's not just everybody listening because Mark is here. Now people are actually listening to me in the second season here as well. So that was very cool. It's nice to have that moment for me to be like, "Oh, we're getting some recognition for the second season as well," so I appreciate you as well, on a serious note.
Olga: Yes, definitely. Sure.
Jack: So you started SEOSLY a couple of years ago, and I was first introduced to you, I think originally through a feature on a Laters newsletter a few years ago. How your name first came up, and then kind of like I said, saw you around on Twitter. Ended up following SEOSLY there. So how has that journey been for you over the last few years? Kind of founding this company, as you said, this small consultation company and growing through. Now you are working on a book, you're working on a course, you're doing YouTube stuff, you're starting a podcast soon. I feel like you're at the cusp of a big expansion, right? You're at the cusp of something big.
Olga: Yeah. So really a lot is happening right now. I'm not sure how I'm going to finish all of those projects. I wanted to do all of that this year. I hope I will be able to do that. So I think I've been on the agency side working for like seven, eight years. And then in 2020 during the pandemic, when the pandemic started, I decided to why not create a blog about SEO and simply share my experience and what I do, what I find interesting? And this is when I decided to create SEOSLY and I simply started writing very long in depth guides about the stuff mainly, the stuff I was doing. And this is somehow how it started.
The blog relatively quickly gained traction and people from the SEO industry, the best known people like Aleyda or Brodie Clark, they somehow Googled me and they started to share my stuff. And this is like how the ball started rolling for me.
Jack: I think that's a sign you were doing good work, right? The fact that people in the industry are giving you that shout out. And you like said it relatively quickly as well. So yeah, that's proof in the pudding. The proof of good work, I think.
Olga: Yeah. And it was like a couple of months, and this I started to grow and this is when I decided that maybe it's time to fully go on my own and start providing those services as myself. And I'm very happy that I am where I am right now.
Jack: Awesome. So you've got the podcast coming up, is it later this month? I believe? And fingers crossed...cool, cool.
Olga: Yes, that's the plan. Exactly.
Jack: So the SEOSLY podcast coming soon. Like I said, as soon as that launches, we will add that link to the show notes, listener. So if you are wondering, there will be links to all the stuff we talk about on this week's episode in the show notes as always. You've also got the course launching in November, later this year as well. And then also a book launching later this year as well.
Jack: So how insanely busy are you sorting all that stuff out? Just I'm just doing a podcast and then my usual client work, so I can only imagine writing a book, creating a course and all of that as well.
Olga: Yes, yes. It's a bit crazy and maybe there will be some delays with some of the things. But I'm doing my best to try to do all of that, what I have planned for myself.
Jack: Awesome, awesome. Well, like I said, once those things launch, we will put those links in the show notes-
Olga: That's great.
Jack: ... so as soon as you... And of course you can sign up for your newsletter as well.
Olga: That's great. And I hope that you and Mark will be one of my first guests to my SEO podcast.
Jack: We would love to be on. I will chat with Mark definitely.
Olga: That's great.
Jack: Have some more crossover between the two of us. Definitely. Definitely.
Olga: I love it. Thanks.
Jack: So we've talked a lot about kind of other sides of SEO recently. We've talked about sort of forging your career in SEO, we've talked about imposter syndrome in the SEO industry. This week we're actually going to delve into some pretty technical stuff, which is something we haven't particularly touched on with some guests recently. So I'm very excited to pick your brain, Olga, from your years and years of experience in hundreds of audits you've done over the years, because this week's topic is SEO audits. And basically how to approach them, how to go through them, how to plan them out and prioritise them and all that kind of stuff.
We're going to try and cover as much as we can, and essentially I'm going to pick Olga's brain and get some good ideas and good tips for your listeners out there. If you are working in house and doing audits on your own site or working on your own sites, working in agency, we'll kind of come at it from a few different perspectives. And hopefully you'll leave with some good advice and good tips for running your own SEO audits there as well.
Olga: So that's my favourite topic, so I'm all in and can't wait to dive deep into that.
Jack: I know. I kind of think of you as the SEO audit person. Whenever I think of SEO audits and I think of Olga, they're just merged together.
Olga: That's great. That's great. That was the plan
Jack: In particular, something we're going to be referencing throughout the episode is your SEO audit guide article, which is 190 steps, more than 190 steps. And I find that so fascinating. First of all, it's incredibly in depth and extensive, and that's kind of why I'm going to reference it throughout the episode as well. But you see so often do an SEO audit in 10 steps. How? The five key steps to do your SEO audit. And you're like, "No, 190, that's how many it takes."
Olga: Yeah. Yeah. I think the most recent version I have like... I haven't published yet, I think it's more than 200. 250-
Olga: Like my own template I have for this audit. So yeah, it's long.
Jack: Incredible. What was your thought process for that? And just to be as thorough as possible and be as clear and step by step step kind of thinking there. Because I think we see so many, like the examples I was giving there. Like top five, top 10 where it kind of touches on a lot of the high level stuff, but doesn't really kind of get down into the deep minute to minute moments of actually running an audit.
Olga: Yeah. So my goal behind that was to make it as complete as possible and to make it possible for people who follow that to really find all the possible mistakes they could find. Because of course it is important to have those top five, top 10. They may be those high level things. But sometimes those smaller things, if you dive deeper into them, you can also find that those small things that no one pays attention to, they can actually be serious issues. So I want it to be as complete as possible. Of course, following this process, especially for a huge site may take 40, 60 hours, but sometimes it's worth doing. It depends of course on the client's type of audit. I guess that's something that we'll be talking in more detail in just a second.
Jack: Exactly. Yeah, so let's dive into that. The different types of audits, how we're going to cover. We'll mostly be focusing on the technical side of things rather than content and stuff like that. I have got a guest planned later on in the month or in the coming weeks to talk about content audits specifically. So let's start with kind of defining a technical audit, I suppose. What would you consider the elements that make up the kind of technical audit? What kind of things should we be covering and should we not be covering in a technical audit? I want to make sure we're not kind of offer a client or do something on your own site that is also going into that kind of content side? How do we know what's a technical audit and what that contains?
Olga: To be honest, my guide, it was initially like... It is still I think called Technical SEO audit, but it also contains other content related EAT elements. Like titles, on page, other on page SEO elements. Because I thought that a technical audit should always like touch upon those other things because it simply won't be complete. But if you want to isolate, just to make a quicker, shorter technical SEO audit, I would say all the things that can impact indexation, crawlability, those types of things. Basically the data you have in Google search console, the data you can also get from other tools like Screaming Frog Sitebulb. So only the technical elements without looking at content at keyword optimisation, stuff like that. But as I said, it's hard for me to separate them. And even if someone just wants a technical audit, I cannot resist and I always check other things as well.
Jack: There's no harm in covering both. I think you're totally right. So yeah, thinking about that kind of when you're first starting, say you're starting with a brand new client, you've never worked with them before. What would be your initial step? And we can cover content and technical kind of cover your approach as a consultant coming in here. What would be your kind of initial steps and your initial thoughts? What would be your first thinking of, okay, I'm going to run this tool straight away. Or I'm going to look at the website first. What would be your first step there?
Olga: Sure. So when I have a new client, I always start with this full in depth SEO audit, the one I described on my site. And based on what I find there, I kind of create the entire strategy for the next 12, 18 months. And usually the first two, three months are simply like the execution of those tasks I laid out in the audit. Because sometimes they are very time consuming. Very often they relate to content, and content optimisations are always very, very time consuming and require a lot of effort, a lot of energy from our side. So doing this in depth audit, which takes me a week or so is the first step. And finding there, and depending on the site, what problems it has, the goals of the client, I of course assign priorities to those things. And we decide what we start with, whether we focus on, for example, quick SEO wins. Because sometimes the client just wants to grow and just wants to grow their site, their business. Sometimes the client has suffered a traffic loss, so then my approach would be different. So it depends on the situation, the goals, and an SEO audit always at the start as my guideline to what I want to achieve and do in the next months or even a year or so.
Jack: Awesome. I think that's really laid out really well in your article. The fact that you start off with step one is the purpose of the audit. And I think that's something maybe a lot of newer SEOs, less experienced SEOs will come in and just kind of be like, "Oh, I need to do a technical audit, I need to do a content audit. Get an idea of this site." But actually understanding what's planned, like you said, is the client planning to grow? Are they planning to do this thing? Are they coming up in a... Have they just finished a site migration or a redesign and it's affected their UX and they click through rate and that kind of thing?
Jack: And understanding the purpose there is so important, right, for that to be that initial step and understand the goals and objectives of them as a business or your site if you're working directly on your site. And then understanding how your work, like you said, lays out that strategy for the next 6, 12, 18 months, whatever the kind of schedule is there. So I guess starting off, to you what would be the initial kind of step for... Would you kind of have a brows around on the website, and using your experience and eyes as an SEO? I know I do this when I'm browsing around sites and it annoys my wife to no end. She'll open a website and be like, "Oh, that's terrible. Oh, they've got a broken link there. Oh, they're not doing this thing." Trying to kind of activate the SEO brain there.
Is that where you kind of start off just in the instance, just load up the website and have a look at what's on page? Maybe look at the source, have a look at some HTML stuff and kind of start from there. Or would you start with, you mentioned Sitebulb Screaming Frog, would you maybe start with a crawl first as your initial step there?
Olga: To be honest, I start with this manual review I think, and I also send... Because as you said, based on our experience during 30 seconds, we can really, really assess the site relatively okay, and accurately.
Jack: I love watching your YouTube channel where you did the five minute audit, and you're just scrolling and be like, "That's wrong. Anchor text is bad. Broken link here, like-
Olga: Yes it's like that. I don't even need tools sometimes. But yeah, so manual review. Of course, manual review won't reveal everything. I won't be able to browse all the pages, so manual review. I also always want to take a look at what's in Google search consoles, so Google Search console. And of course I always crawl the site with both Sitebulb and Screaming Frog.
Jack: Nice. We pretty much have the same system here. I was introduced to Sitebulb by coming here to Candour. And yeah, I know they previously sponsored the show as well, so they're not paying us to say this, I promise. But yeah, I think-
Olga: But this is how I learned about Sitebulb from your show.
Jack: Oh, perfect.
Jack: Awesome. So yeah, I think that's an interesting thing. Again, kind of coming at it from people who are new to the SEO auditing kind of thing. That manual review I think is another thing that some people might not expect to be so early in the process. And there are certain things that you can pick up with an experienced SEO I, or just scrolling around that some tools might not pick up, right? Are there any particular things you can think of that would be those kind of common mistakes that people make when they start thinking about, "Oh, I need to do an audit for this site?" And what's going to be the kind of first pitfall, that first hurdle they're going to hit when they think I'm going to start an audit now?
Olga: I would say the biggest mistake and pitfall in that regard is that people start an audit, especially with Sitebulb, now I think Screaming Frog also shows you the tips, priorities, issues-
Jack: Yeah, they've just introduced that. Yeah.
Olga: Yes, yes. So I would say relying on that too much is definitely a mistake. And just without our own interpretation, just saying the client, "OK, the tool says you have those issues, you need to fix them." We need to remember that those tools don't have the context. They don't have our experience. They don't have our human brain, so they may be and usually they are wrong. They can of course highlight some things we are not able to see manually because they have just crawled like a million or 500,000 pages. So definitely they have more power in that respect, but relying on that too much is not a good idea. We should have our own process, our own checklist of things we check. And we should use those tools to check those things, not vice versa when the tool is telling us what we should check and what we should pay attention to. So I would say this is like the biggest mistake I see, especially among less experienced SEOs.
Jack: Yeah. I know I was totally guilty of that in my early days as well. Just kind of running Semrush or Screaming Frog, export. There you go. That's your audit, like just-
Olga: Yeah. Audit done. Yes.
Jack: Straight into Google Sheets, audit done, no problem. No like idea of prioritisation, or plans, or scheduling or anything like that. It's just an export straight into Sheets and hope for the best.
Jack: So coming onto, I touched on prioritisation there. What would be your process for, now you've kind of we've done an initial crawl, we've had a bit of a manual review. What would be the next step in terms of looking at the results there, and then thinking about how we want to prioritise them for actioning? Whether that's from the developers or from the client side of things, or even us, like I said, working on our own websites as well?
Olga: So I usually divide my audit into two. Like I identify the most serious issues that can or do impact SEO directly. And if we fix those issues, we can actually expect some huge results. And the other part is quick potential, quick SEO wins. And those two, quick SEO wins and fixing of those important SEO issues, critical SEO issues are like my top priorities. Which I assign the highest priority to these two types of recommendations I provide within audits.
Jack: Cool. I think that's really interesting coming at that from, again, kind of simplifying it to... Again we've talked about this previously on the show. I kind of talked about this with Tom Critchlow many months ago when I first started on the show. Talking about communicating with clients as well. And as I just said there, the way to not do it is to just export it and throw it at your client and just expect them to understand everything.
Jack: So like you said, bringing in your context, bringing in your experience, bringing in you as an SEO, your interpretation of everything and being able to prioritise that. Is there a particular method you come into? From my perspective, I always think of it as kind of the resources it's going to take to actually implement that thing, whether that's time, money, developer work, whatever it's going to be to make those big fixes. And then also the impact or the estimated impact that's going to have on the site. So, if there's a huge fix and half the URLs are suddenly not indexed, but there is one little thing. Oh you just put no index on half your site because somebody ticked the wrong box in the CMS somewhere.
Jack: We've all seen that.
Olga: Yes. Yes.
Jack: Do you think that's a similar kind of approach where you're thinking about-
Jack: ... that kind of prioritisation?
Olga: Yes, definitely. In my case, it usually depends because sometimes I work with clients who have their own developers. So of course I need to talk to them. I need to learn about their kind of time availability and how easy it is going to be to work with them.
Jack: Or not easy in some cases.
Olga: Or not easy, yes. In some cases I am the person who implements the changes I recommend. So there it's usually easier because I know pretty well what I can... For what recommendation I need like more time, which is going to be the quickest win. So in that case it's easier, but it's usually more tricky if I am the person who does those optimisations. So the way I do it, I simply have in my audit... Because recently I moved from providing an SEO audit within Google Spreadsheet to Google Doc. Because at first I was using a spreadsheet with a lot of comments. Now I moved back to Google Doc, because I want to provide more explanation, more and more comment commentary, more screenshots. Because it was a bit limiting in Google spreadsheets.
So I always say what's the priority? What's the possible impact? And what's the... And how much time it may take to implement that? I assign different types of colors so that when the client views the table of contents, they see those different colors. Whether it's like a critical, whether it's easy and stuff like that, so they have some guidance. But of course they don't understand the audit the way I do and I always have a call with them, when I explain what really means what. Sometimes if I don't have a post audit call, I simply record a short video and I simply talk, explain what I meant, what I actually meant here. Because sometimes it's very clear to me, but still they don't get what I meant. So I think this extra explanation in the form of video or audio or video call is really very, very crucial and increases the chances of the audit of being implemented, like I don't know, 10 times or more.
Jack: Yeah, definitely. I think communicating that is so key, right? And you're totally right, talking about how you communicate developers is going to be different to how you communicate with the client, who maybe is less technical or not trained in SEO at all. And then understanding how to communicate a pretty big piece of work, and a lot of time and effort that's going to come in from a few different people to then understand this is worth doing. This is why we should do this. And getting everybody to be on the same page there I think is a huge part of being an SEO consultant, being an SEO in an agency side. And like you said, having that follow up call or that video there to really run through things.
Olga: Yes definitely.
Jack: I've always found that really important. So we touched on a little bit of the gathering, the basic information just by looking at the site. Is there anything you think a lot of tools like commonly miss? When you're thinking about using Sitebulb and Screaming Frog as an example here, what are the kind of common things you think people might miss if they just run those tools and don't actually go and do that manual review? I know I encountered one on a site the other day where we had, we were planning redirects and kind of mapping out redirects and they kept going to the homepage. I was like, "No, we want them to go to the parent category, not the homepage." That's not necessarily wrong, that's not necessarily an error. But I know in context that is incorrect because we want the redirects to go to a different place. But the tool doesn't know where we want those redirects to go if they're already implemented. If that makes sense. Have you encountered stuff like that? Where you thinking about kind of like the context of things as you were saying that the tools might miss in their crawls and reviews?
Olga: Yes. So I had one situation with an affiliate site, so I was crawling, it was pretty, pretty huge website, and I crawled it. I was analysing the data and I saw that the site does not have any 404 pages. I was thinking that's brilliant. How on earth is this possible? That's really nice. But then when I dive deeper, I noticed that the site simply had no 404 page, and 404 was simply redirected to the homepage. So it was not possible for the crawler to see that. I was able to find that information. But at the first glance, the site looked like perfect, the perfect site. So that was one thing.
And I think what also those tools are missing is they won't tell you if the site is, for example, optimised for keywords okay. If it has any keyword focus. If it has like okay internal linking, in terms of, again, using the right keywords in anchors. Of course, the tool will show you the anchor text like the most often used anchor text. But they won't show you whether the site is optimised in an optimal way, if I can say that. Because the site may be pretty okay in terms of technical stuff, but it may have no SEO strategy behind what it's writing about. And the tool won't show you that.
Jack: Yeah. I know there's been a lot of discussion with like... So we have the helpful content update just finished rolling out. So I think that's going to be more and more important as we go forward to try and really think about the search intent, and the context for what we're writing, who we're writing for. Please don't write for robots.
Jack: Please listeners, understand your users, understand your audience and write for those people. And yeah, I think that's a huge part of bringing in that human element, right, of understanding the humans you are writing for. The tool as a bot essentially doesn't understand that context, or won't get that kind of thing. Is there a tool you'd recommend to have a look at the keywords? I know Semrush and Ahrefs are kind of pretty good at getting a kind of quick organic kind of glimpse of what pages you're ranking for and things like that. Would you typically include that as part of that audit process as well?
Olga: Usually I like at least analyse the top 10 pages. I use Semrush, I use Ahrefs and I also use the plugin, the Chrome extension Keywords Everywhere so that I have the keyword data in Google search console. So I always take a look at that at least a little bit. Sometimes I check for example if those most important pages have some strong keywords on the second page, and then I recommend like some small on page optimisations or internal link optimisations. And very often they really help the site, the pages move to the first page of Google. Because they weren't optimised those pages for those keywords at all in many cases.
Jack: Yeah. So moving on to a bit of backlink analysis here as well. Again, another thing I think a lot of tools include as a separate thing, away from a site audit, but I think should be included, especially when you're onboarding new clients. And I know I've talked about my... Hatred is the wrong word. But frustration with the Disavow tool. And how so many people in SEO are very trigger happy with that and just being like, "I don't trust the site, just Disavow it straight away." Whereas I've actually encountered, when I worked with the client a few years ago, they had disavowed a good link that I saw in their Disavow file when I first I worked with them. I was like, "That's gone to waste. That's a real shame, like just throwing that in the bin." So how would your approach be to looking at the backlinks of a site and kind of auditing that from an SEO perspective as well?
Olga: So I always like, I have a list one section in my audit process which is dedicated to analysing links. So the way I do it, I look at links using Google Search console. Like these are I think the main links I want to check, because since Google is showing me those links, I may take a look at them. Of course I also do link analysis using Semrush and Ahrefs. Those toxic links, to be honest, I ignore them in most cases, because they sometimes... Because I believe that the most toxic links, toxic links those tools call them, I think Google ignores those links, like block both links anyway.
So my recommendation here is usually if you haven't been actively building those links, and if you don't have millions of weird links, I don't think there is a need to Disavow them. It's better to focus on creating new content in most cases. So I don't think we do need to use the Disavow tool unless we have been doing some shady stuff.
Jack: You're cleaning up after a very shady agency who worked before you.
Olga: Yes, yes. That's my approach. And rarely do I have clients who have anything in Disavow. Usually they don't even know what this is or so.
Jack: Yeah. I think that's a common thing. Like you said, people see the word "toxic link" and kind of react very quickly. And like you said, if people are less experienced or aren't SEOs themselves and coming from a client perspective, that looks like a very scary word that a lot of these tools kind of throw at you. But as you've said, and as is kind of proven by a lot of the Google representatives, Google does not have a definition of a toxic link. That is not a thing from their perspective. So why should it be a thing from our perspective? If we're working with Google and other search engines as well have said the same thing.
I know some of the big Bing team have talked about this as well. Talk about it is not a thing from our perspective. And a lot of the time they'll get caught up in the update from Google when they do their spam and big clearance updates and things like that. They know what they're doing. They've been handling bad links for 20 years at this point.
Olga: Yeah, exactly. Like links are the maybe most important, one of the most important signals. So I'm pretty sure they're getting better and better at understanding those links.
Jack: So thinking about backlink still, kind of sticking with that, what are the kind of things we should keep an eye on in terms of a backlink audit? Some positives, some negatives. Because I know the obvious thing is kind of broken links, right? You've got a back link pointing to a page that no longer exists. Is there anything else that comes to mind when you think about diving into that backlink profile? And not thinking about toxic links specifically, but anything we should keep an eye on when we are doing that as part of the audit process?
Olga: So, what I usually do, which is part of this quick SEO wins part of my audit, is I check what pages on the site have the best external links. And then once I determine what pages I think I would love to help in terms of SEO, I recommend adding internal links from those best pages with the best links to internal links to the pages which we want to promote in Google. Which we want to have more the so-called SEO juice. So-
Jack: Spread the juice around, exactly.
Olga: Yes, exactly. So I would say this is what I recommend doing, what I do and it helps. But again, there are so many factors at play that it is usually hard to say 100% that this was like... Because I added those things that those rankings moved. But in some cases it looks like this really helped.
Jack: Yeah, I think internal linking is such a huge factor there as well. You're totally right. The combination in harnessing the power of the external backlinks. And then being able to essentially shift that around, as we said, move the juice around the site. And being able to point it to pages, you want to highlight sections you want to highlight, anything like that. And I find it often from a lot of clients I've worked with in the past, and some I'm working with now, you're maybe building content and outreach content and all that kind of stuff to get those links in. And using those internal links to then point to the services pages, or the product pages that then can see the benefit from those internal links there as well.
Jack: Thinking about internal links, what would be the kind of things you would want to keep an eye on from an audit perspective? You've already touched on anchor text, which again, something I know you can spot for a mile away, just glancing at a website.
Jack: Yeah, yeah, I agree.
Olga: That's great.
Jack: So thinking about, again, more on the sort of technical side of things, let's talk about robots.txt briefly and think about that. What would be your kind of approach? Like I said, we're starting with a new site, we're going in with the audit. Kind of reviewing it from, I guess this kind of manual review kind of approach. What would you want to keep an eye out for when you're looking at a kind... For want of a better phrase, a new robot sort of text file you've never seen before?
Olga: So I would make sure that the file does not block resources which are needed for Google to render the site, and see the content. So I would say this is the most important thing. Another thing is that robots.txt is not used to prevent indexing, because this is not its purpose. And whether it's used the way it should be used. For example, there are some infinite search pages which we don't necessarily want to Google to crawl, especially in the site, in the case of very, very, very huge eCommerce websites where crawl budget is a thing. So I would like to make sure that robots.txt is used the way it should be actually used. And of course if it has like the site map indicated, which is not a huge thing, but I like to have it there.
Jack: Yeah, no harm in that. Right?
Jack: No harm in pointing people towards the sitemap just in case.
Olga: Yeah. Yes, yes, exactly.
Jack: Do you think it's also worth speaking of the sitemap, having a look at that as well as crawling the site, crawling the sitemap specifically? And I know I've, from my experience comparing and contrasting the two. So like what is actually live on the site and what you are telling search engines is on the site map can often be two very different things, so-
Olga: Yes, yes. So yeah, definitely. So I always both crawl the site maps and crawl the site and do that comparison. And I also check in Google search console what's going on. But this comparison, I had like an interesting case where the site map had, I think... Yes, the site map was pointing Google to HTTP versions for example of the site, even though the site was using HTTPS. So basically Google had to go through this one hop. And this was a pretty huge site map, I think hundreds of thousands because it was an e-commerce if I remember correctly. So yes, this comparison is really, really important. Screaming Frog or Sitebulb can also show you if you, for example, have non-indexable pages in the site map, or redirected pages as I provided the example. Or if you have what else? What else?
Jack: Even non-canonicals in there as well. I've experienced that a few times having the kind of-
Olga: You have?
Jack: Like you said the HTTP and HTTPS versions, even if the canonical is the HTTPS version, you've still got the HTTP in the original. Or trailing slashes being missed out and stuff like that. That's hugely common one as well.
Olga: Yes, yes. So in the case of small sites, that's not a problem of course. But if this is a huge site, then it really becomes a problem.
Jack: Definitely, definitely. So with sitemaps, let's move on to indexing and indexation. You mentioned Google Search Console a lot already. Obviously that being our kind of first party data, that raw data from Google there. Would that be your first port of call to review the coverage report and look at the indexing from for the site?
Olga: Yes. Usually before, when the tools are crawling the site, I usually this is the time when I check Google Search Console data, and the coverage report, which has been recently updated. Now it's I think easier because you just have indexed and no indexed. Before that you had errors and sometimes people used to freak out about there's an error, but actually it wasn't an error. You just had this page with a noindex tag, and you wanted it to have-
Jack: Exactly yeah.
Olga: -that so-
Jack: Yeah. Again, that's that context, right? That's understanding-
Jack: ... someone with experience coming in and saying, "No, you did mean to do that. That is okay, that is fine." But everybody sees noindex and it's like, "Oh God, that's a bad thing. That's... We want everything indexed all the time." It's like, not necessarily.
Olga: Not necessarily, exactly. So yeah, it's really worth going through what Google Search console is showing you. For example, I had like a few cases of sites when I went into GSC, I noticed that the site was like, I don't know, 1.000 URLs, indexed URLs. And there was like 500,000 not indexed URLs. And then I was, what is it? When I kind of took a closer look, for example, these were all those Japanese characters type of pages. So this site was hacked for example, and Google was... At first Google indexed those pages. Then Google kind of realised that's not necessarily these are the pages which should be indexed. And then they were going straight to this not indexed part of coverage reports, so...
And crawler, I think, I'm not sure if crawler was able to show me that because this was like, when you viewed that page, it was returning 404. But Google was still showing them and those pages were showing in results. So Google Search console is the way Google sees the site and shows you exactly what's indexed. And in addition to that, of course you should use the crawler, which is going to review all the meta robots, for example, directives, what you actually... How many non-indexable pages you have. And there may be differences, so definitely I would say this compare the two.
Olga: Or there's no site at all.
Olga: Yeah, so just this loading circle sometimes.
Jack: ... all that effort has gone to waste.
Olga: Exactly. Yes, exactly.
Jack: So coming on to thinking about kind of the... I guess the different approaches, like we said, we are kind of coming at it from perspective of looking at a website for the first time. But say you've been working with a client for a while or they've got a big change coming up on the site. Would your approach to doing an audit differ if say, for example, I don't know they've requested an audit every six months or every year or anything like that? I guess my first question would be how often should we be doing a kind of full site audit, do you think? Say it's a fairly big site, it's a fairly sizable client in terms of your business and things like that.
Olga: So I would say those six months, six months maybe eight, nine months. Every six, eight months, I would recommend doing that. In the case of my clients, I do this initial SEO audit, I have this file. So after sometime I usually get back to those things, what I like those problems I had. Sometimes it's just a reference point to me. I simply do a crawl and I look for those things. I don't necessarily do the exact same audit, which took me 60 hours, but I kind of cover the most important things, or I know what can get broken. Like for example, internal links can become broken for some reason. So usually this is my reference point. But yeah, I would recommend having at least this basic, basic SEO audit, basic technical SEO audit once, twice a year.
Jack: Good idea.
Olga: What are your experiences?
Jack: Yeah, I kind of threw six months out there very casually as part of the question, and then realised I kind of threw my opinion in there by default as well. I tend to go for six months as well. I know a lot of people are... I do tend to do a sort of monthly crawls, just keeping and setting up scheduled crawls on things like Sitebulb and stuff like that-
Olga: Yeah, me too.
Jack: Just to keep an eye on stuff and make sure suddenly something hasn't broken, or anything like that. Or the site health just drops off a cliff or anything like that.
Jack: But not fully presenting that to the client every single time and going through that process. So I think keeping an eye on stuff is key, but actually not spending all of your time. And I know something I've talked to Mark with quite a lot is, we don't want to spend all of our time doing auditing. You actually need to be creating good stuff that will bring value to the client, and actually do some SEO work rather than-
Jack: ... just constantly fixing stuff and auditing stuff. And you spend all your time writing reports and you don't actually get chance to do any actionable stuff there as well.
Olga: Exactly. Perfect, perfect point.
Jack: How about when people are doing, say we've got a web design company in and they've redesigned the site, or we're going through a site migration. Would your approach be to audit before and after or just after? Or what would your kind of thoughts be around any sort of big site changes coming from the developer point of view?
Olga: So to be honest, I deal a lot with migrations and redesigns, and my approach is I always do an SEO audit before of the current site. And paying special attention to what's ranking, how well it's ranking, and the traffic numbers. So that I always export the list of all URLs. I also merge this with the data from Ahrefs, Google Search consoles, so I know what those URLs actually rank for. And when the new site is being designed and is already designed, and it's in this staging environment, then I run a crawl. I do the mapping.
Jack: Lucky you, you're getting staging environments, how fancy? We don't always get staging events, but-
Olga: Yes, I know but-
Jack: ... I do love it when we do.
Olga: But in rare occasions when I do, it's kind of making life a lot easier. So I always like map all URLs to the staging URLs. Sometimes I recommend doing content pruning in some cases it's actually beneficial. And then once everything is kind of mapped out, and the map of redirect is ready to launch together with the launch of the site. The site launches, and then right after it launches, I do another crawl. And just to make sure if maybe something hasn't become broken. And I make sure all those redirects work. So I would say there are like, in my case, there are usually three stages. The old site, the staging site, and the live site.
Jack: Very cool. And again, those aren't the full, like you said, full takes a week, 60 hour audits. This is kind of a dial back version of that kind of prioritising and highlighting-
Jack: ... everything, the really stuff.
Olga: In that case, that would be not necessarily that in depth, but it would be more about making sure what's ranking and learning about the internal linking structure. Because if something is ranking, we don't necessarily want to change the internal linking structure too much, because it may cause unexpected results. And usually when there is a migration or the redesign, I always try to implement those possible quick SEO wins. There's always room for improvement when it comes to anchor text. And I'm happy to say that in most cases, those redesigns, which I have overseen, were successful and traffic actually started to go up after them, instead of like dying.
Jack: Instead of one of the horror stories we hear so much.
Olga: Yeah. But I had people reach out to me exactly after their redesign and what happened. They have now a flat line of traffic, so... And usually it is very, very easy for me to find what happened. In many cases, this is for example, no map of redirects. For example, someone decided that those pages are not worth it, let's remove them and not redirect them, and yeah.
Jack: I experienced this with a client. It was one of the first things I did when I started working here at Candour. It was kind of a migration recovery project working with a client we'd not worked with before. But they had came to us very much like you said, "My traffic has disappeared. What's going on?" Kind of thing. "Can you help us?" And essentially they had not redirected any of the images and the images were a huge factor in a lot of their traffic. And we were looking at this and I think so many people neglect that option to swap from search to image in search console and realise, oh, there's search, there's images that discover in there as well. You've got to take in all those different factors and your different... Where are you getting your clicks and impressions from, might affect how you then approach that going forward. And how you map your reader redirects. If you don't get anything and who cares about your images, and you're not an image heavy site, maybe don't spend the resources doing that. But if it is a big factor, it can be worth taking the time to really map out those redirects and make sure everything is pointing in the right direction. I think if I remember correctly, this was a full platform migration from one CMS to another. So completely CDN, a whole thing changed and yeah, it was a big mess.
Olga: Yeah, that's an excellent point with images, right? Because in most cases when I compare image clicks are close to none. But-
Jack: Yeah, exactly.
Olga: ... there are exceptions.
Jack: There are certain sites where that is a big factor. I know you mentioned before when you first started building up your website, building up SEOSLY, you got a lot of traffic from Discover as well. Which I think is something a lot of people outside of SEO, most people don't even know it exists, first of all. Or they have seen it and have no idea what it is. Like you just scroll your search in the app and like, "Oh, there's another page that's recommending my articles. I wonder what that is." Nobody knows that's called Google Discover or anything like that.
Olga: Yes, exactly.
Jack: But yeah, I think that's a thing that certain sites and certain areas, certain industries, certain niches can get a significant amount of traffic from those kind of unexpected places, for want of a better phrase. So definitely worth factoring that in and keeping eye on those sides of things as well, for sure.
Olga: Yeah, definitely. So in the case of my site, of course this is like an anecdote. If I publish regular regularly, I get a lot of traffic from Discover. If I take a break, traffic from Google Discover takes a break too.
Jack: Of course. So let's think about key words a little bit. And you mentioned kind of thinking about context, thinking about how we're ranking and how that can change post migration and all that kind of stuff. Hot topic over the last couple of years or so, year or so probably, EAT. How would you approach getting an idea of the EAT of a website during that audit process?
Olga: So I actually have, again, the entire section just about EAT. So what I did there, I simply went through all Google articles about EAT. They have this famous article, what Website owners Should Know About Google Core updates, I think. They have also provided some guidance in their articles about Google product reviews updates. And I think in the latest article about helpful content updates. So I basically took all of those questions, I put them in the spreadsheet. And when they apply to a specific site because in some cases they don't, I simply go through those questions and try to answer them as precisely as possible. And usually I am able to find some possible things to be improved in terms of EAT. And of course there is Quality Writers Guidelines, which everyone should read from cover to cover. There are some-
Jack: Recently updated as we talked about on the news episode a couple of weeks ago as well.
Olga: Yes, exactly. So again, this is a technical SEO audit process I have, but I still look at those questions because sometimes there is something to be improved.
Jack: Yeah, definitely. I know we've talked a lot about EAT on the show. Let alone when Mark spoke to Lily Ray about it even before I joined the podcast. It's a big topic and I think it's a lot of people coming from two different directions, I think. Thinking about it from sort of like where are you getting your links from and authoritative kind of sites and that kind of thing. But also thinking about how you display your information on your site. Who has written this article, when do they write it? What are their credentials or that kind of thing. Is that typically something you would recommend to clients in general or is that kind of... Would you say that's more kind of niche towards your money, your life, YMYL kind of stuff that essentially requires that kind of stuff? If you're writing about health and finance and all that kind of thing.
Olga: I would say I provide some recommendations in the case of practically all sites, not only your money your life types of sites. Because I always think at least you should provide the information about the author of the site. Who is this author to talk about that topic, LinkedIn... Linked to the LinkedIn profile. If there are some awards certificates, why not show them on this site. Or use the schema, same as if you have some publications somewhere, you may point to those publications as well. Provide your photo, anything. So I think this is common sense thing. But I always recommend that, unless someone has a very good reason not to show their face or something.
Jack: Yeah, I think, because the reason I ask that question is I think a lot of people see it as a factor only for your money your life sites. It's just like, oh, if I'm not writing about medical advice or financial advice, whatever, I don't need to worry about it. But I totally agree with you that why not essentially? If you can, why not do it? It will benefit you in the long run. And for me as a user, completely switching off the SEO brain as much as I can, putting a face to a name, or an author makes a huge difference for me as a reader as going in and seeing, I know from your website, your face is all over your website. You've got gifs of you pointing everywhere, and all that kind of stuff.And I think that endears the reader to you as a personality. Because your voice and your tone and your experience then carries through, and you're able to say like, "Oh yeah, there's Olga, she's pointing towards the subscribe button for the newsletter. She's there pointing to the thing in the audit." I think it's a nice way of doing it, not only from EAT but actually kind of being welcoming towards new users as well. And I think a lot of sites can feel a bit kind of cold and calculating, and SEO focused in a this has just been written for just to get keywords in there. And it's not actually, as we said, not actually writing for humans. So I'm not even going to put my face to it. It's written by web admin or whatever the-
Olga: Yeah. Admin.
Jack: ... the default setting is.
Olga: With an AI created photo.
Jack: Oh God, yeah. With a weird nose somewhere and eyes in the wrong place.
Olga: Yeah. Or three eyes.
Jack: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I think it's, again, I think it's something people underestimate from, "Oh, I'm not working in YMYL, So let's not bother." But yeah, I totally agree with you having those little bits and pieces in there. I always use the example of Healthline because they go absolutely crazy with that. They have the full credentials of when it was last reviewed with a medical doctor, when was the article updated? So they will have essentially a change log down the side of, it was originally written in January, 2022, updated in June, 2022. Reviewed by a medical doctor, blah, blah blah. And they run through this whole process. Sort of like, that is, I mean granted they are Healthline, they are providing medical advice, so that makes sense.
Olga: Yeah, exactly.
Jack: But maybe not going that far with every single site. But having those little steps towards that I think can be, like I said, not only endearing to the user, but can factor in for a lot of SEO stuff as well.
Olga: But yeah, before I created SEOSLY, I was this kind of person, I really didn't want to show my face. I think you wouldn't see my face nowhere, anywhere on the internet. And I had a portfolio of sites which I created like this anonymous person because I was... I knew some SEOs, so I was monetising those sites. And none of those sites had such nice growth as SEOSLY. Because SEOSLY has this personality, this other element of people sharing, enjoying, reaching out to me. And so I think this really, really made a huge difference.
Jack: Yeah. And I think even in terms of brand awareness and stuff like that. Especially if you are essentially representing yourself as you are with SEOSLY, you now have that face and name of just like... It's not welcome to SEOSLY, that's it. Here's how to do an audit. It's no, I am Olga. I am recommending you do this thing. I have this many years experience. I have worked with these kind of clients and done these kind of jobs, etc., etc., etc. I think it makes a huge difference in terms of brand awareness. The fact that some of the listeners will have heard of who you are through a latest newsletter, or us mentioning you on the podcast before, or other podcasts and other appearances. It then helps to build that kind of brand awareness as well. And I think a lot of companies could benefit from that as well. Where even if they're going for sort of, yeah, I want to be interviewed on a podcast about my website. Then yeah, getting your name out there, getting your face out there can definitely help.
Olga: Exactly. Even though it may be a bit scary at the beginning.
Jack: Exactly. Yeah, yeah. I love the idea that you've gone from complete anonymity to gifs and faces everywhere. Just, yeah, I appreciate the transition.
Olga: It's still kind of, I'm not feeling like the most comfortable with that, but that's... I need to do that if I want to do SEO and I want to be successful on the internet.
Jack: You've committed to it now.
Jack: Cool. I think we've pretty much covered everything. Is there anything else you can think of you want to cover? Because I know we're about an hour now, so-
Olga: Yeah, I think-
Jack: Don't want to be to be too long. I think that's pretty much everything, isn't it?
Olga: Yeah, I think pretty much everything, so-
Jack: Awesome. We will wrap up there. I'll give you a chance to plug all your social media SEOSLY stuff as well.
Olga: That's great.
Jack: Cool. So that is a hour roughly, run through Olga's process of SEO auditing. Hopefully listeners, you've learned a lot about the SEO auditing process. If you want to learn more from Olga, where can they go, Olga? Where can they find you across the internet?
Olga: So I am quite active on Twitter, so @Olgazarr, I think you will find it in the episode's notes.
Jack: You will do, yes.
Olga: So Twitter, LinkedIn, feel free to connect with me and of course my website, seosly.com.
Jack: Fantastic. Like I said, recommend you sign up for the newsletter there, so you can keep up to date with everything Olga is doing. And as I said, we've covered a lot of stuff, but there is even more in Olga's SEO audit article with soon to be updated, Olga, breaking news more than 200 steps-
Olga: Yes, that's correct.
Jack: ... in that article. So if you want some even more in depth moment by moment, minute by minute breakdown, I highly recommend you go and check out SEOSLY, and check out that article. And thank you for coming on, Olga, it's been awesome to finally talk to you.
Olga: Thank you. It was pure pleasure. So yeah, and I can't wait for you and Mark to join my podcast as soon as it launches.
Jack: Fantastic. We look forward to that as well. So stay tuned listeners, you'll probably hear us on the SEOSLY podcast coming up in the next few weeks or months as well.
That about wraps is up for this week. Thank you very much for listening. I hope you appreciated Olga's insights on auditing and some technical SEO tips throughout the podcast. I know I've learned a lot from Olga, and learned a few more things during the episode as well. So I hope you did as well, listening at home, at work, on your commute, wherever you are listening to this podcast. If you would like to get in contact with us, you can contact me on Twitter. I am @JLWChambers on Twitter. It's probably the easiest way to get ahold of us.
If you'd like to come on the show yourself and you have some interesting SEO or PPC stories to tell, please do get in contact. I'm always looking for new people to interview and new people to shine a light on them in this industry who have gone underrepresented in their career so far. I've got some fantastic guests coming up over the next few weeks, including the likes of Daniel K. Cheung, Jamar Ramos, Maddy Osman, Myriam Jessier, and Stephanie Walter. And of course, Mark and I will be back very soon with more live LinkedIn Q&As as well. So lots of content to look forward to over the next few weeks. But until then, thank you very much for listening and have a lovely week.