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Auditing Handbook

Auditing Handbook

A good audit encompasses more than just reporting findings – going the extra mile will drive more upsells, but more importantly it will provide the client with better results which will circle back in terms of referrals.

An SEO Audit is often taken up in reference to on-page, but also link profile analysis and therefore GAP Analysis – this is to say that clients want solutions that will improve their rankings, but more importantly they want to know where they are failing, why and yeah how to fix it.

Most Effective Online Marketing Activities:


As you can clearly see, the SEO Audit is tied directly to the two most effective activities according to both agencies and clients. So let’s do this the right way – let’s stand out, above the rest.

  1. Overview
  2. Tools
  3. The Future of On-Page
  4. Creating a Report
  5. Report Presentation

1: Overview –

The most successful audits focus on human analysis of data.

Manual audits provide better results because most tools & software solutions (which give recommendations) are often providing you with outdated recommendations, they are also biased to the developer or business owners ideas of a good audit.

It’s important to not fall into the trap that many of the tools that provide a crawling function equates to analysis.

Step 1 is to audit and Step 2 is a GAP Analysis.

A GAP Analysis provides the client with recommendations that software/tools will often miss or provide poor recommendations for.

More than this a good GAP Analysis can be looked at as focusing on weaknesses… Of course this varies on a client by client basis so never begin to assume it’s always the same issues or you’ll miss something.


Clients will often want all the technical findings, despite not knowing what to make of them – really who wants to read 5 pages of jargon anyway?

A solution is to provide a GAP Analysis as the main document with technical findings in separate documents.

Use your GAP Analysis to answer any questions you think the client would end up asking over the phone, or via e-mail – use this as your shield against time-wasting.


In your GAP Analysis portion of an audit ensure that the client knows that the recommendations aren’t guarantees, optimization is a process and what works for one site may not on another. Manage their expectations from the recommendations if they’re followed as this can avoid a lot of headaches later.

In the main document you will want to write a preface or a basic report for the client that’s visual. Think of using ‘gamification’ tactics to give them a sense of achievement.

Metas: A+ 98%

Keyword Density: B- 81%

You get the idea…

It doesn’t matter what you choose so much as giving the client an ego-stroke before you ‘bash’ their site which a lot of their pride is invested in.

2: Tools –

These are my basic tools of the trade that I use for analysis which I highly recommend using if you don’t already.

ScreamingFrog – Good crawler (only useful for checking response codes – use other tools for everything else)

URL Profiler – Get back useful third-party metrics from several sources.

Ahrefs – The very best for getting a comprehensive link profile report.

SEMRush – You should absolutely be checking for rankings of all keywords.

SharedCount – Get back recent numbers of shares across multiple social networks for any URL. – The most advanced on-page tool I’ve ever used and is a must for every technical aspect of an audit.

Pingdom – Load speed checker that’s industry standard. – In browser, SEO browser… Shows your site as crawlers see it and gives you back vital info on number of inbound and outbound links on each page you ‘crawl’.

WebmasterTools – The obvious, but also on a related note ensure that clients haven’t at some point disavowed good links. I had a client disavow links from the BBC back in 2013. *Facepalm*

All of these tools should be used together to create an audit that delivers more than anything that can easily be created from a generic tool in itself.


3: The Future of On-Page –

This may seem a weird subject, but trust me on this it really isn’t.

Now I’m not talking about entity search or any of that… What you and I need to care about is the bottom-line for businesses.

I’ve been stringently testing on-page optimization methods, techniques etc for over 12 months solid now… Why? Because there’s already a lot of good link builders out there who I can pay a dime to a dollar for compared to someone truly good at on-page.

Where people fail again and again is right here (on-page) where the foundation is.


The future is in relevancy.

On-Page Ranking Factors by Importance According To An Industry Survey Of SEO Experts:


While I’m not sure this survey is fully correct, it’s clear that everyone knows relevancy is the future, but also the here and now.



Monotopicness means just what you’d expect, is your content focusing on one specific topic? I’m sure you know that blogs like Moz, SearchEngineLand and others publish their findings on the length of posts that rank best. It’s usually pretty high, but what they don’t tell their audience is that this pool of blogs and websites are usually authority sites. Very few regular businesses or small blogs have the resources to pay for 1,800 word minimum blog posts.

If you’re writing about a dog house and attempt to get 2,000 words but can only find 800 words without bridging into other sub-topics then that’s when you’ve reached the monotopic threshold.

Instead of writing more you want to create related content and link appropriately to sub-topics. Internal links are far more valuable than an arbitrary number of words per page.

Ensure clients have as much content as possible on their site that stays monotopic. Another benefit of this is that it keeps the crawlers coming back and on the site longer which is good for a whole host of reasons.


Googles primary index is what we see every day, we call it the SERPs. They also have a secondary index that determines where everything on the primary index ranks.

A growing part of that algorithm / formula is how nodes (web pages) relate to each other. So here we come back to relevancy again. The way they do this is by creating incomprehensible relationships or taxonomies between different topics, things etc.

In SEO we tap into this with our Silos and in general marketing you could look to segmentation for a similar idea to why we use Silos for UX and Conversions also.

All of the clients (future) high volume of monotopic content should ideally be placed into a taxonomical hierarchy or silo for relevancy benefits.

Relevancy is a threshold also (described in various patents) and a lower relevancy score between two linked nodes will result in less link flow or ‘juice’ being passed. This means getting better results from on-page relies on relevant internal linking.

Anchor Text:

I won’t go into this in such depth, however anchor text should almost always be exact or partial match. Focus on ensuring this is the case or that links are surrounded with instances of the keyword relating to the page you’re linking to.


A relevant search result in the eyes of Google is only as good as the page is easily accessible. Speed is king.


How often do you publish? The reality for most sites is that they should publish at least once per month to show freshness… We can just call it authority and relevancy flags wrapped into one ranking factor.

I prefer to publish at least once per week.

Your clients site will be crawled more, rank for more long-tails and eventually grow into an authority site in the eyes of Google.

Never forget that relevancy and authority are linked.

Authority Links:

When and where should your client’s site link out to authority sites? Benefits of linking out for relevancy and authority are without a doubt in my mind a real thing… Having tested this several times I had 5 sites respond positively.


Look at this in the white hat way.

Does it make sense to link out to an authority site on the homepage/root of an eCommerce site? In a nutshell, no. In fact the type of site makes a big difference – my 5 responders were informational sites or sites that mixed informational content (blog posts) with service based content (homepage, services etc.)

If you decide the client could benefit from a silo then the parent page is often the best place to do this as links flow works backward and forward. Meaning that improving relevancy and authority on the parent silo will also improve it on the root and it’s direct descendants (children).


  • This is my exact Silo Structure that Romesfall shared on the BHC forums about 6 months ago:

This is my exact Silo Structure that I shared on the BHC forums about 6 months ago

Good On-Page Further Reading:

Don’t take everything in these posts as gospel truth, in fact a lot of it isn’t great, but you’ll learn your own agency best practices as you go. However there are a lot of concepts in these posts that translates very well to providing an actionable audit from the on-page perspective.

Keep In Mind: Plugins For Solid WordPress On-Page SEO.

WordPress isn’t the greatest out of the box solution for SEO out there. However with just a few free plugins you can turn your site into an SEO machine that totally negates the negative aspects of WordPress as an ‘SEO Solution’.

Yoast WordPress SEO – Hands down the best SEO plugin for WordPress. I know some people prefer others, but this has all your bases covered and is a must have plugin on ANY site you build in WordPress.

With the ability to access robots.txt & the .htaccess file it gives you a lot of control, not forgetting the fact you can use the plugin to easily tell Google not to index all the useless aspects of the default WordPress setup which hurts your SEO such as tags and archive pages.

Without a good plugin along these lines you’re always going to struggle to get the best out of your WordPress site.

 Google XML Sitemaps – The Yoast Plugin does have a feature like this integrated, in my experience though it’s not very good and leads to a lot of URLs not getting indexed where they should and it doesn’t seem to show up in Webmaster Tools a lot of the time unless you submit it manually. For this reason, Google XML Sitemaps is the most effective solution for ensuring Google crawl your site efficiently.

In addition to it actually creating a sitemap Google seem to be able to find and read, you can change the crawl priority of different pages. While this doesn’t guarantee you’ll be crawled more frequently, it doesn’t hurt to ensure the priority goes with your homepage and parent/category pages that house all other content as these are the most regularly updated parts of your site.

Widget Logic & Zen Menu Logic  – Sitewide links on any site, not just WordPress tend to be capped at a threshold value. This means that the links aren’t as powerful and the link flow isn’t nearly as good… With these two plugins you can make different links appear in the widget section and menu section of your site on different pages.

These plugins are essential for silos and similar site structures, and in my opinion they’re generally good practice as the more relevant the links are on an individual page the better it is for the page itself & the pages being linked to.

WP Custom Category Pages – Any of you who are familiar with WordPress will be aware that category pages are usually a nuisance that more often than not just ends up giving you duplicate content issues.

With this plugin you can totally do away with that issue, by being able to customize your category pages with unique content & by default the plugin removes all content of posts within the category other than the link itself.

This ability allows you to turn categories into valuable assets in your site structure hierarchy once again, also making the pages good candidates for landing pages that target specific keywords.

Unfortunately the plugin doesn’t work with all themes & sometimes it has issues with showing content properly if there’s less than two posts in the category.

NoFollow Internal Links – By default a lot of links in WordPress are DoFollow and this isn’t good for healthy link flow around the site. While you can see in my post about why using nofollow sucks for seo, if you aren’t willing to remove the links totally by diving into the code it’s probably worthy of your time to use this plugin.

This plugin allows you to NoFollow the following:

– Author Links

– Read More Links

– Tag Links

– Category Links

– Comment Links

– Archive Links

With most sites being built in WordPress this can help you show your client exactly what they need to get the job done with minimal fuss.

Your GAP Analysis can bridge into all or one of these topics if you’re struggling to find recommendations. If you’re truly wanting to do the most comprehensive audit possible then you can focus on all of them in addition to everything else. These will result in improvements with regard to rankings.

This goes beyond a traditional audit, but it provides so much more value for the client.

When you focus on what the client truly wants (failings, why & how to solve them) you can produce audits that are going to provide them with results.

The technical reports are as I said before – ‘just the cherry on top’… Actually these are just to make you look like you’ve done more work than you have. Learn to accept this… If you provide a typical audit there’s no real solutions, the client doesn’t understand any of the jargon. It’s the time put behind the gaining of knowledge that they’re paying for, but you have to show as much as possible while still providing the solution in a way they understand.

Lesson: Don’t do the same crap audits that everyone else is doing.










  1. Creating Reports:

A GAP Analysis can actually save you time in the office as well.

If you place one person in charge of separate areas to look out for then you can follow a process.

The Production Line:

Member 1: The first team member should be in charge of collecting vital data. This includes but is not limited to; link profile reports, on-page information (link volume, keyword density etc etc) and data from webmaster tools. This includes all technical analysis such as reports from ScreamingFrog.

Member 2: Once all data collection is completed, member two will be in charge of analyzing the link profile. All recommendations should be made by member two in a separate word document.

Member 3: Once all data collection is completed, member three will be in charge of analyzing the on-page info. All recommendations should be made by member three in a separate word document.

Member 4: The final member of the team is in charge of creating the report, spotting correlations between the data to create a strategy that fits with FosterSEO services and getting the client a good result in a reasonable time-period.

Member 5: Member 5 should be the most senior member of the team. This is pure quality control and ensuring that nothing has been missed or mistakenly analysed wrong.

This process is only an idea of how you could work things, but in order for you to deliver an audit in a timely-fashion where errors don’t get made by tired/bored eyes – you need a production line.

Deliverables in the Audit:

  • Technical Report (These are the files generated from the software and tools used. Name these appropriately, place them into a single folder and ZIP it so it’s ready to be sent.)


  • The GAP Analysis: This is the main file which is written by a team member, it contains all the findings and answers the ‘what I’m doing wrong’ question. It shows and tells them why and it provides a solution to each individual problem.

This is your single greatest resource for upsells, it defines the strategy and shows them what you can provide in terms of solutions. It is also the shield that protects you from overly-long calls where you need to explain everything over and over and over again.

You should make sure the client gets at least a half an hour Q&A session though, so include this as a footnote in either the e-mail or the file itself.


  • Solutions Powerpoint: Create a simple to follow powerpoint that goes over the solutions in a simplified manner with images to nail in the point of what needs to be done.


  • Developer Instructions: This file should be a word document that explains to the developer how to implement any changes on-site to adhere to the SEO strategy properly.


If this doesn’t sound like a lot to deliver it’s because you don’t actually have to do a lot to provide a good audit. It’s just a case of giving the client what they want – despite what they say it always comes down to better rankings which = more money for them.


Finally, 5 – Report Presentation:

Report presentation is perhaps the most critical part of this process… I really mean it. People will judge a book by its cover and you should create your main document file (the GAP Analysis) to be beautiful and easy to navigate.

This means a navigable PDF file.

Have someone in the office create a basic template for this…

  • Use to create a basic cover image that can be edited for each client’s businesses name.
  • Use stock images to make the presentation look more interesting, remember we’re not trying to bore them to death, formatting is important!
  • Score images for each section e.g. on-page, link profile – the more the better, break it down into sub-categories e.g. overall for on-page and individual for the areas you’ve picked up on for further improvement.

Essentially we’re creating a highly visual report that’s interesting to look at too. Once this is done it can easily be changed on a per client basis. So even if you have to invest $1000.00 to get a great one done outsourced it’s worth it in the long run.

It’s going to take some time to get this system perfected, from the guidelines you decide to use, upsells you want to include, the tools you prefer and the way you present your audits.

The one thing I recommend is to stand out from the crowd because you can fetch $10,000 for a single audit with the right business. Becoming the agency that is revered for doing professional audits isn’t a bad place to be especially when you can create a highly efficient production line.


Sample Audit

  • BathSEOExpert

    Wow. That’s a great read and full of immediately useable tips. There are some tools in there that I have never heard of either and it’s always useful to know more.

    The question that strikes me right away though is how do I go about charging for site audits at the level you are talking about? Is it that your reputation precedes you, that your funnel has a lot of prospects coming in or some other magic mix?

    • Todd Foster

      That’s something my sales team can answer. Will ask one of them to check your comment out tomorrow :)

  • Name Admin

    Hi Todd: Great article – so much valuable information. The link to your handbook seems to have been misplaced (404 error). I’d be very interested to take a look at it.

    Can you post an updated link? Thanks!

    • Todd Foster

      For sure, will update that now :)

  • Name Admin

    Sorry, not handbook link, but the Sample Audit link…thx.

    • Todd Foster

      Fixed :)

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