It honestly feels like we do SEO audits every day. Audits for new clients, audits for existing clients and ongoing SEO, audits for our friends, and audits on our lead gen packages. Some of the audits we perform are rather quick and automated using SEO tools while others are quite detailed using our 40-point SEO inspection.
No matter how you do your audits, or how your SEO company does audits for you, there’s a good chance you’ve run across some big SEO no-no’s; some red flags.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the most common red flags when performing an SEO audit. And by the way, this is good for business websites, blogs, agency sites, and lead generation sites.
A new domain name or a sketchy domain name
Now it’s not necessarily bad to have a new domain name. After all, every domain has to be purchased at some point. In 2013, yrocconsulting.com didn’t exist, so it was a brand new domain just like yours was at one time. It’s important to know that backlink tools will be completely ineffective on new domains. Tools such as SEMrush and Ahrefs haven’t had time to crawl the domains backlinks. Our feelings toward SEO tools are a bit jaundiced. No two SEO tools will deliver the same information, so we know they lack in accuracy… however that’s not to say they’re not a good launching point. A new domain may have 20 solid referring domains, but reports show none.
A few years back, Symantec compiled a report on the 20 shadiest TLDs (top level domains such as .com, .net, .pro, etc) and they found domain names such as .country, .stream, .download, and .date were more likely to contain malware and abused by internet scammers and hackers.
Domain names play an integral role in the SEO gamut and are important enough to make #1 on our Red Flag SEO Audit list.
We also watch EMDs closely. EMD stands for Exact Match Domain which is basically a domain name that matches exactly your search query. This is NOT a red flag but wanted to include this for those we partner with for lead generation websites. www.DallasRoofRepair.com is an EMD because it’s feasible that a user could search Google for ‘dallas roof repair.’ We see no reason for that domain to cause any issues. However, take an EMD such as www.WatchMoviesOnlineForFree.com. Google’s AI can spot legitimate companies vs. spammy companies using EMDs to capitalize on strong keywords. In 2012, Google’s then Head of Webspam Matt Cutts announced an algorithm change was meant to reduce the amount of low-quality exact match domains in search results.
Anyway, again not really red flag in the world of legitimate lead generation, but worth noting.
Sketchy Backlink Portfolios
This is somewhat of an easy red flag to pick out. Take a quick look at the referring domains using an SEO tool. The number isn’t important, but the domains themselves. This gives insight into what kind of SEO they’re doing.
So what are you looking for? (1) Spammy looking domains and (2) blog domains with multiple different subdomains. Go through your list of referring domains, and if you see 100 *.blogspot.com links with different subdomains, it’s clear that website bought a backlink package to try and climb the Google ranks. Let’s take a step back for a moment and clear something up… Paying a person or company for a backlink from their website is against Google’s policies and it’s ethically wrong. Hiring a company to build backlinks is not against Google policies and is smart SEO – if the backlinks are quality.
If you’re worried that your website is a red flag to Google because you hired a company to provide backlink services, take a deep breath. Companies such as Yroc Consulting’s backlink services are white hat and provided with ethical standards and follow Google policies. Backlinking is an art that we continue to sculpt and make better, and there are a lot of elements that go into a solid backlink. Having a referring domain from Blogspot is not bad; having spammy referring domains from Blogspot could be bad.
Bad Themes or Frameworks
Old websites aren’t bad, but some can be really difficult to work with. At Yroc, our team is skilled in a wide range of coding languages and website platforms, but some websites have a backend that just plain difficult; and others don’t have a backend at all. Some use unfamiliar coding languages like ASP.NET or pull information from 3rd party sources.
When our web design team encounters an older theme or framework that out of date, it raises a red flag to us. First off, time is money – and if we can’t log in and make necessary changes, we and the client are losing money. But more importantly, we see websites that are so old they don’t function properly. Some even still use Flash. (If you don’t know, please don’t use Flash on your website.)
Don’t be offended by this, but if you have a site that was built with GoDaddy Site Builder, you’re going to run into difficulties with solid SEO efforts. Older and uncommon frameworks such as Joomla, WordPress, or Drupal from 10 years ago maybe an SEO red flag.
Again, older looking themes aren’t necessarily bad for SEO, but it can be a sign that updates are needed or may not be available. Older sites may also not be formatted with SSL certs and could have outdated programming such as Flash slowing it down.
You would be shocked to see how many sites we run across that have been hacked, or have some form of malware. In fact, we received a call for help last month because their website was “gone” and replaced with “Japanese ****.” They had no access to their own website, their domain, or to their GMB- only their Facebook page. So we recommended for the first step to ‘suggest an edit’ on the GMB to change the website link to the Facebook page link. That would have been the precursor to a lot of work, but it worked and now they’re happy. They didn’t care about the website because the Facebook page had a higher level of activity. Weird, right?
There are so many rotten hacks and methods to infiltrate websites with malware, sometimes you don’t even know your sites been hacked. As you may have guessed, malware is very bad for SEO.
So if you’re seeing that notorious “This site may be hacked” tag on your site in Google’s SERP, it’s okay to cry a little. Malware is clearly an issue, and to will have an adverse effect on SEO almost all of the time. But wipe those tears away, because we help business owners wipe away all traces of malware, restoring their website to fully functional order. We also provide plans to secure the website so the event doesn’t repeat itself.
I believe this one should speak for itself. If you are considering doing SEO on a website in a shady niche, chances are you’re going to have trouble. We get online leads for companies selling Canadian drugs, posing as casinos, and other industries that often don’t seem to legit. These niches are ruthless in the SEO world, and we stay away from them.
To be clear, at Yroc Consulting we are picky with who we work with. We maintain a specific moral code amongst our employees and the business and are happy to partner with clients that meet certain criteria. So it’s understandable that we do not partner with pornographic or illegal website clients. Aside from that, industries that shady typically have sketchy links and shady black-hat on-page clickbait.
Now, what if you’re a legitimate company in a shady niche? A supplement company can be honest and legitimate and still get banned by Google. If you are in the SEO business, rest assured you will always run into problems in a shady niche.
If you are in the optimization business – or you’re a business owner that understands the value of search engine optimization, consider the points above. If you’re ready to tackle an SEO project, it is always helpful, and in our case necessary, to perform a full SEO audit before taking on the task. Maybe we’ll post our 40-point SEO audit someday. Until then, happy optimizing! Stay tuned to part 2 of SEO audit red flags.