It's All Just Marketing: Episode 4

Technical Site Audits and Website Migrations


In this episode of It’s All Just Marketing, Helium SEO’s CEO, Tim Warren and Senior SEO Team Lead, Eric Kelly discuss the pros and cons of technical site audits and how to do a website migration well. Furthermore, they talk about the importance of educating the client while breaking down the SEO process, how to remove old content without damaging your SEO rankings and Google crawling. If you’d like to talk with Eric Kelly further, you can email him at

Tim and Eric draw from their years of experience in digital marketing to provide valuable insights and practical tips on how to create successful marketing campaigns in today’s ever changing digital world. Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or just starting out, It’s All Just Marketing, provides you with the information you need to be successful. Thanks for listening!

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Tim Warren: Hey guys, welcome back to the podcast. This is Tim Warren. I’m your host and this is the It’s All Just Marketing Podcast. Today I have Eric Kelly. You’re our guest and you lead the technical and engineering team here at Helium SEO. Thanks for coming on.

Eric Kelly: Thanks for having me. Yeah, it’s been quite a journey over the last five years. So growing from about eight people sitting in the back of that little office to an expansive team, new office, new members every day. Yeah, it’s quite the change.

Tim Warren: It is. It is cool to remember. Think back on the little tiny 500 square foot office we started in where we had great people, great ideas. We didn’t pay very well and we had big dreams. But it’s fun to see where we’ve gone,  where we are today.

Eric Kelly: Joining with that view of growing with the company, seeing everyone. I think starting with such a tight knit group, someone who, you know, you can trust and really build. And I mean working with you, working with Paul, the knowledge that just the team provides is humongous.

Tim Warren: So yeah, man, it’s been awesome. I’ve loved working together as well. So Eric, you run the technical team and the engineering team at Helium and for those listening who aren’t familiar or don’t know, Helium does things uniquely. Where we have, we actually, instead of having account people who do the whole process, we break the whole process into their individual roles and functions. Then we have individual people who do just one role. So, we have just link builders and just on-page ops and just content specialists and just back-end. And so, we take the whole SEO process and make it more of an assembly line so we can have deep specialists at every part of the way. And the benefit of that, where a lot of SEO companies you get an account manager who is on your business and they’re the same person all the way through. But then the challenge is, you know, they’re your keyword research person, their your content person, they’re your link building person, they’re your strategist. And not everybody is, as you know, some of those things, you’re going to be good at, some of the things you’re not going to be as good at. And so wherever they have strengths, you’ll be strong. Wherever you have weaknesses, they’ll be weak. And so you have really helped at helium. You’ve helped us build this assembly line process where we actually have specialists at every part of the process. Can you talk about for a minute why we’ve done that? And just as you’ve been building that, what you’ve seen results wise that it drives?

Eric Kelly: Yeah, definitely. There’s two big reasons that this works so well for us. One is you have your Account Manager who is looking at your account every day, looking at your keywords, understanding what your process is, what your product really is. Then you have the boots on the ground behind it. That expert that knows every little bit of the SEO and the practice and the technical that needs to go into it. So for example, our keyword research, when the Account Manager goes in and they might need to do localized or something very niche and they may overlook several different factors that someone who’s in and out of it every single day will spot. Like how much it might impact trustworthiness going into the titles and really seeing where those patterns lie, past just all they all use the same terms. Well, are they all going to be that informative style? Are you going to hit the definition style or the what is style headers? And you really get an understanding of where is this term in a funnel so that we can provide that information directly to a client.

Tim Warren: I think that’s really good. And I know personally, as I’ve seen for clients, the benefit is, the bigger the client campaign gets, the more complicated it is. That the issues of those weaknesses, if there are weaknesses, and you have this one account person who’s doing the whole thing. If there’s gaps in their knowledge, those become amplified when you start working on really big campaigns versus in our situation, we can bring in the expert Link Builder and say, okay, I need this many links and these DR links and how do we find these? And here’s my budget, and that person does that 40 hours a week. So they’re really good at it and they know how to solve those problems. Versus or to your point, you know, the on page ops tech, who knows everything about pagination and everything about the different ways things should be done. And so instead of an account person having to truly be a specialist and expert at every single part of it, they just have to know who to call, Right? Or Helium, essentially.

Eric Kelly: Yeah. You have that force behind you. You have that supporting, and we’re not there just to get the job done. We’re also there to help educate every time we run across something new, every time we see a niche or maybe a place where an Account Manager hasn’t run a local campaign before, we can be that expert teaching them so that on their next campaign they can pick it out immediately.

Tim Warren: No, I love that. I think it’s great. Well, let me ask you a couple questions for the people listening, because, I think there’s some major things that most brands go through. Whether they do search marketing or not. Everybody has a website nowadays, right? Or you should if you don’t. But there’s multiple technical things that brands go through where balls can get dropped and things can get sloppy. So I want to ask you some of those because I think your team, I’ve seen you guys with processes you’ve developed, you really handle some of these things well. And I think our listeners could benefit from just what you guys have learned and the knowledge you have. So the first is site migrations. So brands will change domain, they’ll change name, they’ll change URL, they’ll get acquired and need to migrate their site to the new acquiring company and they’re merging them all together or whatever. Right. So this happens pretty frequently. I’ve seen the ball drop with migration so many times. So many brands will come to us a year, six months after and say our traffic is down 50%. We don’t know why it’s not recovering. What do we do about it? And then we look in and say; Oh my gosh, so many mistakes have been made, right. When when doing a site migration, Eric I’d love to hear, What do you see as the most important things? What’s the process you guys use? How do you make sure they go well?

Eric Kelly: Yeah, I think one of the biggest things that we see is if you do not forecast and show your change to Google clearly through search console, clearly through redirects. Not only is it going to hurt your money pages and your big terms on the site, you’re also going to take a big hit to your brand authority. You’re going to take a big hit to your brand awareness.

Tim Warren: Agreed.

Eric Kelly: When we hit it, most of the times we tackle almost every migration with a three phase plan.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: First, Pre-migration, you’re looking at what are all the terms you’re ranking for? How is your brand seen? You’re looking at how is your site built? What are the different pillars, categories, your navigation, and it’s real understanding of what is in your site. So that when we go to start rebuilding it, whether you’re just doing a refresh, a rebrand. You’re doing a complete site overhaul, or maybe you’re merging it with another. You need to know where everything lived before and why it was ranking. If you don’t know why it was ranking, you’re not going to be able to save those rankings going forward.

Tim Warren: And when you when you say why it was ranking, do you mean the actual content of the pages, the H1’s h2’s, the links that are pointing to those pages? Can you define why it’s ranking more specifically?

Eric Kelly: Yeah, breaking down your money terms, your big terms that are driving traffic. You want to look at what are your backlink profile? Are your pages ranking because they have a huge number of backlinks and where can you use those backlinks? Or sometimes with small pages that aren’t very competitive, you can create brand new content or migrate over a portion of that content and rank because you’re the authority or you have the right H1 or H2. So every process that we start, we pull all the strong Backlinking pages, set those aside because those are the ones we need to redirect very, very cautiously. And we take everything that is ranking or has some term in the search results. And we set those aside if they don’t have any backlinks because that’s the content that’s driving. Now you’re going to find a large number of pages on your site that don’t have a term ranking, don’t have any links. And especially anything that is dated, that should be put in a category that you look very closely at. If you don’t need it, remove it.

Tim Warren: Let’s talk about that, because I think one thing I’ve seen with a lot of brands is, not to bash creatives, but a creative company will come in and say, look, let’s let’s redesign this thing. Let’s give it a new skin, which is fine. But oftentimes creatives will say, let’s have less content, more imagery, right? Which is oftentimes bad for SEO, right? To like get rid of content and make it make it look nice, which I understand some brands are like, we just want to be really visual. That’s great, but way below the fold you need to get some content or your pages aren’t going to rank, right. But one of the things I’ve seen, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, Eric. Is when a company does a site migration or a redesign. They’ll oftentimes look at their oldest content, right? Content from four or five, six, seven years ago, old pages, old blogs, old news articles. And oftentimes those are the ones that they say, we don’t need this anymore. It’s really old. Let’s just have new content. But the oldest content has the most amount of links pointing to it. And so, you know, inadvertently they don’t know they’re doing this. When they archive and delete all that old content. They remove huge amounts of their backlinks and then their authority drops and their rankings drop and they don’t know why. And so what’s our process? What do we do differently? What do we recommend to companies that they should do differently when it comes to looking at their old content and archiving old content?

Eric Kelly: Yeah, definitely. If you have access to a tool like Ahrefs or other crawlers that let you know how many backlinks you have, that’s the first thing. I’ll always look at What is there and what is existing. Yes, if you don’t have access to that, one easy tip to go through is is the content dated? Does it say content update from 2016 or the best x, y, z in 2015? If it’s more than six years old, and it’s dated. Most of the time, that’s safe to get rid of. Anything else. We’ve really seen success with putting them in an archive section, building out a blog or a blog slash archive and hosting content there. All the content set aside isn’t going to take up your crawl budget. You can no index it. You can set it so that Google can still follow it and see it. But, Google knows that all of this is older and then you always have the option as you see terms drop or traffic drop through search console or through analytics. You can bring that content back onto your page.

Tim Warren: So when you say a crawl budget, do you mean that Google is limiting how many pages of yours they will crawl in a certain window?

Eric Kelly: Yeah. So if you think every time Google opens a page. Every time Google looks through it, it takes them some time from their server.

Tim Warren: Yeah.

Eric Kelly: Depending on how large your site is, how much authority, how long your site’s been around. They budget you a certain time allocation.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: And that’s how much time you get for that week, that day, that month. And if you have a million pages to crawl, it’s probably only going to see 200,000 or 300,000 and you’re missing out on all the other crawls.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: But if you no index and you tell Google specifically what pages you want to crawl, you’ll see those every month. Every week.

Tim Warren: Oh, interesting.

Eric Kelly: Any small update will get you a results quicker.

Tim Warren: So I think for a lot of SEOs, or search experts who are listening, they would say, no, I don’t want to ever no index any pages. Right. I’m basically telling Google not to crawl those pages. But, to your point, if your crawl budget is now smaller than your number of pages, you have to decide what to tell Google not to crawl or else it won’t. It may not crawl really important pages, because your crawl budget is getting used up on a bunch of stupid small pages that it doesn’t need to be reading. But then it’s not reading your key money pages or your product pages or service pages. Is that right? Yeah.

Eric Kelly: Yeah. So the fewer pages you can have it crawl, the better. But, don’t go too far with it. Crawl budgets are usually very large. Unless you have 100,000 plus pages, you’re usually good.

Tim Warren: And if you archive the old content and make it, no index will the backlinks that still point to it still passed link juice.

Eric Kelly: So you do get some it’s going to be greatly diminished.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: And that’s where search console is going to be great for seeing what is driving traffic. Search console will also tell you what type of queries are coming through. So you can see for any individual page and you can pull a lot of that data and assign it over. If you do a crawl of your own site or if you have a list of your own pages, you can see how many clicks and impressions each gets. If it has some clicks or any impressions, it’s probably something that has something good in the content portion link.

Tim Warren: Yeah. Okay. So what about you mentioned six years and older dated content, right? So it’s like, best ERP softwares in 2016 and now it’s 2023 and people are like, this is a really old article, right? But let’s say that that page has 55 referring domains and a UR of 60. So it’s a really good page. It’s Built a bunch of backlinks, right? But then this content is really old and so let’s archive this thing, but then you’re going to lose a lot of link juice. Do you recommend in that case, would it be better just to redirect that to your blog or your home page or, you know, as an SEO, losing backlinks feels bad, right? Like, oh, I don’t want to lose his backlinks. But also, you don’t want to advertise a page that’s six years old, right, at this time or seven years old. So what do you do in that scenario?

Eric Kelly: Two options come to mind immediately is one rewrite the article. If nothing large has changed, take a lot of that same content, rewrite it, update it, put in the newest, biggest, brightest thing and repost the content new date on it. Or even better, don’t put a date on it and just straight up redirect your old page.

Tim Warren: Smart. So then it’s now evergreen. It doesn’t age. 

Eric Kelly: Yup.

Tim Warren: Okay, interesting.That’s smart.

Eric Kelly: And then number two. If you have a similar page to it already, maybe there is an update that’s from 2017 or 2022, that’s even better. Redirect the page over losing the content, especially since you already have something similar on your site, isn’t going to negatively impact it as much as just removing the page altogether.

Tim Warren: Got it. Okay. So the two options, just rewrite it. Would you throw another potential option in there of instead of rewriting it, maybe what if, let’s say that it’s something that wouldn’t be worth rewriting? Could you just take it and redirect it to the new blog page potentially, where maybe there’s not a new blog that’s similar you can 301 Redirect it to. But could you just send it to the main blog? Is that a bad user experience?

Eric Kelly: The best thing that I can say is like both on Google Analytics and search console, if it’s getting traffic, then it’s probably not the best to redirect it directly.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: But if it has had none or sees very, very little traffic. No. Redirecting it to your blog is perfectly fine. You’re not going to get as much of that authority from the links because a more topically relevant page is going to be more related. So you’re going to keep more of that authority.

Tim Warren: That makes sense. So what are other, This is great so far, Other site migration issues that you see. What are mistakes that brands often make, and what should they do differently?

Eric Kelly: Yeah. Past that phase one of just removing content that’s not needed or keeping all of your content that you’ve ever provided. In our Phase two is where we look at the site rebuild. You really want to be cautious when rebuilding your navigation, when rebuilding your dependencies, and your directories. So you’re moving from slash blog and then the blog name to slash knowledge resources slash and then getting five, six, seven layers deep.

Tim Warren: Right.

Eric Kelly: The biggest issue that we see is creating a single level site where you don’t use those directories at all. You want to split up your content. Your service pages should all live together. You just want to make sure that the build out that you have makes sense as if you were just opening folders on your computer.

Tim Warren: Okay. So in terms of when you say a single level site, you mean not having forward slashes. It’s just everything on one main page and everything clicks down to one site. Are you talking about that?

Eric Kelly: Yeah, that’s pretty much what we’re looking at. If you look at your URL in the bar, if it the article name product page, that is seen as everything’s on the same level. So each directory or each folder really allows you to group similar pages together. So having a slash services is great.

Tim Warren: Okay. Oh. Versus just like, you know, x, y, It’s forward slash services forward slash service. Next service. Next service. Next service. So you’re breaking your site into buckets that make Google. It makes it much easier for Google to crawl the knowledge base, trust, knowledge graph. Right. They can better crawl and understand where things fit together. The entities on your site. Am I understanding that correctly?

Eric Kelly: Yeah. That’s perfect. These buckets. You want an entity or similar entities in every bucket.

Tim Warren: Right.

Eric Kelly: So if we’re looking at the helium site and we’re looking at, well, what are all of our SEO services? So research analytics, reporting organic dashboards and it’s all the things that we offer in one place. So even a user can look at that URL and know immediately that they’re under their services. 

Tim Warren: Right.

Eric Kelly: Or you’re in your blog. 

Tim Warren: Right. No, that’s interesting. I mean, I’m just thinking about organization, right? If you had a kitchen pantry and you had, 15 shelves, right? And or let’s say that they were cabinets where you can’t see from the outside and you just put some spoons in that one, some flour and that one, some sugar and this one. But then also have spoons and then this one has some flour and it’s like all over the place.

Eric Kelly: Have you been in my kitchen?

Tim Warren: Yeah, I mean, I have, Yeah. It’s just like, you know. Yeah, I have not, but. But I have a one year old and so things get placed where you’re like, why is that here? Right? You know, things get put where it’s like, what happened to the nail clippers? No idea.  I’m sure they’re in a cabinet somewhere.

Eric Kelly: They’re with the soup.

Tim Warren: They’re probably with the soup. Yeah, 100%, or in the soup. But so then what happens is you have to end up opening every single cabinet to find the sugar. Right? And then you can memorize it and say, oh, the sugar is down to the third. Why isn’t it labeled sugar? Well, because there’s also spoons and there’s also nail clippers in there. Right. Versus the better way to do your kitchen is to have: here’s the drawer for sugar, here’s the drawer for flour, here’s a drawer for spoons and everything can be labeled from the outside so you know where to find it. Google works the same way, right? 

Eric Kelly: Mhm.

Tim Warren: Where it’s so much better on your site. If you have brand forward slash services and then you list out all of your service pages and they’re all in that same entity. 

Eric Kelly: Mhm.

Tim Warren: Because Google then can know all these pages under services are your services, all these pages under locations are your locations, right? Versus just keyword optimized pages that do not follow a rhyme or reason and you have them all over the place. It’s much harder for Google to classify and understand your content. Is that correct?

Eric Kelly: Yeah, that’s exactly it. And let’s say you wanted to add some brown sugar. You already have a sugar drawer. If you want to add a service, you already have a service section. So Google knows what it is immediately.

Tim Warren: Makes total sense. Okay, So on the site migrations, one thing, a big watch out, is make sure you have multiple levels to your site. Multiple layers. And the better organized your sitemap is, the more easily Google can crawl and understand your content. So don’t have a single level non directory based site. The better you have schema and organization, the better. To my understanding if I got that correct.

Eric Kelly: Yeah.

Tim Warren: What are other watch outs or mistakes clients make when doing site migrations?

Eric Kelly: Yeah. Once you know where all your pages are coming from, all your keywords, all your traffic and you know how you’re going to reorganize the site. The last phase, the last part, is going to be that final push to get it live. It’s setting your site live and what do you have to do? We see so many sites that will keep up their old site, will launch their new site, and never add any redirects or tell Google, hey, this is us.

Tim Warren: Yeah.

Eric Kelly: Google actually has a tool for that in Google search console. If you register or validate on both sites. You can do a domain migration. You go in, you enter the new domain, click ready, and if you have all your redirects set up or you have a sitemap with 1 to 1 redirects to submit, it handles everything for you. We’ve seen sites that don’t do it will take 4 to 6 months to get any of the brand recognition onto the new site where when we launched a brand new site a few months ago, we did this day two, and everything flipped over next day. 

Tim Warren: Hm. 

Eric Kelly: All their traffic came through. You could see in their analytics where it was live for one day it changed over. They had that redirects in place. All the rankings stayed.

Tim Warren: So if someone’s listening today and doesn’t have an SEO company, how could they do that themselves?

Eric Kelly: So the easiest way is search: Google search console, domain transfer.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: One of the first things that you open is the development documentation.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: Very technical side, but the second link down is the link to the actual tool.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: When you open search console, if you’ve never used it before, if you have Google Analytics, it’ll verify automatically. If you don’t have it and you do have a dev team, it gives you one line of code you put on your site and within 24 hours, usually around four hours, You have your verification.

Tim Warren: Nice.

Eric Kelly: So search for the domain migration, go into the tool, verify and then type your old domain, new domain.

Tim Warren: And then Google does everything else for you.

Eric Kelly: Yep.

Tim Warren: And are they simply passing? Are they basically assuming here’s your old domain, Here’s your new domain. They’re now passing all their link juice over or their crawlers over or why does it work so much quicker to do this?

Eric Kelly: So you’re going and telling Google immediately that definitively A equals B.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: When Google has to learn and assume and make guesses, even though you may be on the same host, you may have the exact same server.

Tim Warren: Sure.

Eric Kelly: It is still trying to guess and understand where you’re just directly telling it.

Tim Warren: Right Okay. So in this case you’re not like in the old days before domain transfer was in search console, we would put up the new site and we would just hope Google figured it out, right?

Eric Kelly: Yeah

Tim Warren: Now, you can go to Google and say, this is actually my new domain. This is my new site. Please, see this new domain as our old domain.

Eric Kelly: Yeah.

Tim Warren: Got it.

Eric Kelly: And if you think about it. As the crawl budget that we’re talking about earlier, Google is going to only hit so many pages. So if it’s going to take 2 or 3 days for the crawler to come back to your site,

Tim Warren: Yeah.

Eric Kelly: Then it may be 2 or 3 days before it even realizes it. It’ll crawl several pages, maybe not your home page. It may not realize that the change has come. It’s unlikely, but it can happen. It’s still trying to understand and may not be accessing or tying data together yet.

Tim Warren: Perfect. Okay, so to summarize for people listening. One of the big mistakes clients make, or companies make, that do site migrations on their own, is they don’t go into search console and use the domain transfer tool to basically tell Google our new domain is here. So that can massively speed up the indexing and then the crawling and then basically the rankings of the new domain. Is that right? 

Eric Kelly: Yeah. It’s all in. If Google doesn’t know, Google is not going to change anything.

Tim Warren: Right.

Eric Kelly: The only other thing I recommend during a site migration when you’re doing this is when you decide to take down your old site. Whether you take down every page but the home and put up a new banner. Our new site lives here. If you want to keep that trust. Most of the time we just say put a banner on your new site saying,

Tim Warren: Right.

Eric Kelly: We have rebranded.

Tim Warren: Right.

Eric Kelly: But. Every page on your site should have a redirect from the old URL to the new URL, whether that’s a 1 to 1 redirect. Every single blog should have a new place to live. If the content was carried over, that’s very simple. You know what that new URL is.

Tim Warren: Right

Eric Kelly: If we’ve cut content like we were talking earlier. Where do those new links go? We usually recommend directing it to a very similar blog. But if you have hundreds of thousands of blogs, even if you have 10,000 blogs, that is very time intensive.

Tim Warren: Yes.

Eric Kelly: If it’s cut content, you can always use a high level redirect back to just the blog. You can wildcard redirect anything that was slash blog to the blog. Just put that at the bottom of your file and you’re perfectly fine.

Tim Warren: Okay, so anything that’s not directly redirected that was under the blog will go back to the new blog. 

Eric Kelly: Mhm.

Tim Warren: Will redirect to the new blog. Yeah. And I know this is one thing that helium has done, but you know, we realize for e-commerce sites that have thousands of pages or thousands of SKUs, this can get really time intensive to do manually. So I know that, you know, Paul, who’s our co-founder, he developed a tool that can map him. And Kevin built a tool that we have that can map old sitemap to the new sitemap and try to find the best 301 redirects. If you don’t have that tool, though. What’s the best way to do that? Because to your point, you shouldn’t just throw one redirect old domain to new domain. Boom. Right. That’s not a good user experience. You need to do it on a page by page level. So, what do you recommend for brands that have a lot of pages but don’t have Helium’s tool?

Eric Kelly: Yeah, one of the quickest changes is using what’s called a wildcard redirect.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: That wildcard redirect means that it looks for. Let’s just use an example of product/coffeecup.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: If you are very consistent with your name and it’s now, say, mugs/coffeecup instead of product. The wild card redirect will handle it if it exists. If it doesn’t exist. Adding another layer of all UN cots Redirect to blog just lets you redirect everything in one batch.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: You can rewrite it manually 90% of the time, especially if it’s a massive, massive site. The time input isn’t worth it.

Tim Warren: Yeah. And especially, do you also kind of mentioned knowing where your traffic is coming from at the very beginning. Do you also recommend looking at individual pages and not worrying about pages that get very little traffic where it doesn’t matter if we redirect this because it gets very little traffic?

Eric Kelly: Yeah.

Tim Warren: Does it make more sense to treat your top 20, 30, 40, 50 pages with more care than your bottom 10,000 pages?

Eric Kelly: Yeah, we usually run by top 20%.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: So the 80/20 rule.

Tim Warren: Yeah, right.

Eric Kelly: If the top 20% is driving 80% of traffic hit that just those. You’re perfectly fine.

Tim Warren: So we have a few minutes left, Eric. And this has been amazing so far. Your knowledge is just so good on all this. And I want to pivot to ask you a couple of questions on technical side audits, right? This kind of TSA, right? Or website audits or website technical audits. They have tons of names, Right. But you know, you and I’ve been doing this for years and we’ve seen a lot of companies, we’ve done SEO for a lot of brands. And so many companies love this idea. We start in the sales process, right? Oh, can you do a technical site audit for me? Right. Can you can you do all the technical stuff? Look into my technical and see how my site speed and Dom and contentful paint and, you know, broken links and all that stuff. Right. It’s kind of like, can you check my car to see, what might be broken and what I need, right? Come sell me something. Now, contrary to popular belief. Or whatever the right term is. You would think that the best thing ever is for us to be like, Absolutely. We’d love to build you really technical audits, right? But in recent days, you and Paul, who’s our CTO, actually recommend against that for a lot of brands. So why do you, you know, if it’s so helpful and so in demand, why do you guys recommend against doing this?

Eric Kelly: Yeah. So before technical site audits can be anywhere from 8 to 25 hours of work,

Tim Warren: Okay

Eric Kelly: You can really dig in. You can understand every single piece of the site. But, when we look at what we’re understanding and what the impact is, we really want to focus on something that moves the needle very quickly and very effectively. The first time we onboard with a site. We need to know how is the page structured? Do you have h1’s? Do you have title tags on everything? Are they unique? Those are parts that move a needle. When you really get into what a lot of companies will call the technical part and you start looking at pagination, the rel=”canonical” on every single page alt text. There are all things that yes move the needle.

Tim Warren: Site speed.

Eric Kelly: Site speed is another big one. We see. There’s a report that we’ve used for a while that page loads over two seconds, you see 80% drop off of visitors. But until that two seconds, it’s very consistent. Very low number percentage of visitors drop. 

Tim Warren: Right.

Eric Kelly: So we’re looking at time to fix if it can be fixed and impact. 

Tim Warren: Right. 

Eric Kelly: So under two seconds, you’re maintaining 20%, but every page doesn’t have an H1. Let’s hit that first.

Tim Warren: Yeah. So that’s really helpful. And one thing that I want to add to that is to your point, it can take 8 to 25 hours with the time you’re paying for, for a company like Helium to do this technical site audit. But there’s one other issue that I’ve seen with them and one reason we recommend against it, not for every brand, but for, let’s say, mid-sized websites that have 50 pages, 50 or 100 pages, they have some rankings. When we have done the technical site and we get 25 hours into it, and we get a 40 page report. What we have noticed can happen too, is we deliver this report to a client and they look at this and they say, Oh my gosh, we need to fix all these things, right? But then oftentimes, you know, the time contentful paint, right? Like time to or is it time to first. 

Eric Kelly: Time to first byte.

Tim Warren: Time to first byte. There’s contentful paint. There’s Dom. You know, we could spend, you know, three months improving their time to first byte from, whatever it is, right? Two minutes to one second and we will improve their site dwell time and conversion rate by almost nothing. Right. But we could spend months on it, you know, in exact order. Let’s say that they have h1’s h2’s and they have no h threes and we’re like, You really should have h three seconds. But then working with our dev team takes us months to get that implemented.

Eric Kelly: Mhm.

Tim Warren: In the same time frame though, we are not doing the truly most important thing for SEO, which is better content, longer content, more content, better links, more links. And so oftentimes the problem brands will have is, let’s say we’ll use a car analogy, right? Two of your cylinders are broken in your car, right? You have a V8 that’s firing on only six cylinders. That’s a major problem. But we’re talking to you about you have a little bit of rust on the tailpipe. This one tire is a little wobbly. And these seatbelts don’t work back here. And then we spend all the time fixing that. And then you go to Drag Race and the car explodes. Like, what happened? Well, the engine part was way more important than all this other stuff. Is it? Is that a good analogy?

Eric Kelly: Yep. Priority. It’s always about priority and what you’re doing. And we use an ICE score, Which is,

Tim Warren: What? What does that mean?

Eric Kelly: Yeah. So we have a score that we run across that looks at impact confidence and ease of implementation.

Tim Warren: I like that.

Eric Kelly: And that third one is a big one. So we call it the ICE score. It’s commonly known as the ICE score.

Tim Warren: Yeah.

Eric Kelly: If it has a very high impact and we’re very confident in it, then ease of implementation is weighted a little bit less or we take it a little less. If we’re looking at two different pieces that have the same impact and confidence, that ease of implementation, like you were saying, we want to get stuff that moves that we can get in and that is important.

Tim Warren: I’m writing this down because I didn’t know about ICE and I really like that. It’s what can we implement or importance. Oh, okay. Okay. Let me go back in because I’m writing this down. I actually really like this. I could use this in sales. Right. So it’s importance. Importance. How important is this.

Eric Kelly: Confidence or how confident are we that this has an impact and ease of implementation?

Tim Warren: Ease of implementation. Okay.

Eric Kelly: So the last one is a little bit flipped because if it was difficulty, a high ICE score means we do it quickly. A low ICE score means we don’t. So if we have one factor that’s flipped, that’s why it’s ease of implementation versus difficulty.

Tim Warren: So importance of ICE score. Importance is how important would it be to fix it?

Eric Kelly: Mhm.

Tim Warren: So back to the rust on the tailpipe. You know, ICE score high, right? Or ICE score would be low because importance very low confidence in fixing it. Yes. Ease of fixing it. Yes. But importance is very low.

Eric Kelly: Yeah.

Tim Warren: Right. But, can we can we rebuild the whole broken motor Right. Then it’s like importance, very high confidence, you know, somewhat and like ease. Not easy. Right.

Eric Kelly: Yup.

Tim Warren: But a very important Right. So the ICE score allows you to make the decision on what is worth fixing first. In other words.

Eric Kelly: Yeah, and we usually like importance about twice as heavy as everything else in there.

Tim Warren: I’ll just say because there has to be a weighting score, right, of like so importance is twice the weight and so even if it’s much harder to fix the two broken cylinders, it’s more important than the tailpipe and all the other ones combined. So you should try to fix it first, even if it’s harder.

Eric Kelly: Yep.

Tim Warren: Got it. So, back to the ICE score and then thinking through the technical site audits. So one of the points we’re arriving at here is brands should look at the ICE score first when looking at technical site. There’s nothing wrong with doing a technical site audit, but it’s knowing what to fix when and what’s important. And from what I’m hearing from you and what I’ve also seen that I would pass along. Is that brands will oftentimes get so focused on the details and the technical site audit that they’ll stop focusing on, create a lot of content, good quality content that follows EEAT. Right. Expertise, Experience, authority and trustworthiness. So they don’t focus on that. They don’t focus on link building. They fix all these technical issues and their site barely increases in ranking. And it’s because the technical issues or things across the whole site that should be improved, but fixing those in it of themselves will not improve your site. Well, it’ll improve your site, but it won’t improve your SEO and your rankings.

Eric Kelly: There’s, and this is where it always becomes difficult, there’s user experience and there’s crawler experience or the Google’s experience on the site. Both are very important. And really when it comes down to it in a technical site audit. You should always be looking at internal links. Are they broken? Is there an H1 on every page that is unique, broken or lost backlinks? Those are the big three that are going to move the needle every single time. If it’s anything outside of that, take a second to see are one of those three there that we should prioritize first.

Tim Warren: No, that’s great. So as we kind of wrap up through this idea, nothing wrong with technical site audits. They can be good, but they can take a lot of time to do and they can get you focused on the wrong things that don’t actually drive SEO results. But where they are really helpful is fixing the Google’s crawler experience, making the crawler experience better, but it’s usually not going to fix a huge amount of the actual ranking issues because ranking issues many times are caused by not the right content, not enough content, not enough links.

Eric Kelly: Correct. Yeah.

Tim Warren: Okay.

Eric Kelly: You can always look at it; is your foundation strong or do you have the three most important is your site built? If you have a good foundation, build that skyscraper.

Tim Warren: Yeah.

Eric Kelly: You’re not going anywhere if you don’t have a building.

Tim Warren: Totally. Well, Eric, we’re out of time now, so thank you so much for coming on. Really appreciate it. And if people wanted to reach out, if they had, you know, people listening had extra questions, they wanted to ping you about ICE scores or, you know, what should be in my technical site audit. How could they reach out to you?

Eric Kelly: Yeah, definitely. If people are interested or have questions, reach out to me. It’s

Tim Warren: Eric, thanks for coming on the podcast. Really appreciate your time and your expertise. I know I learned something today, so I hope the other people listening today as well. Hey guys, thanks for listening. This has been the It’s All just marketing podcast with your host, Tim Warren. Today we had Eric Kelly on the show and we talked about technical site audits and website migrations and the things to avoid. We look forward to seeing you guys on the next show.

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