My corporation got audited during the Summer. Like actual IRS audited. That was……interesting.
Obviously the word “audit” is enough to make some peoples hearts stop but it actually worked out well for me. I don’t hide money, I report everything etc. Hell they even discovered a mistake from back in 2010 when they told me I had to pay HST on 8% of my Canadian traffic related to gambling. As they looked at it all they realized I shouldn’t be paying that and so it ended up that they owed ME money – 6 years worth. So yeah, worked out pretty darn well!
The worst part about it was the time. Most agents there haven’t really grasped all of the internet marketing models or how affiliate marketing works. So essentially I had to educate them on my entire business and how it works. It was an extremely time consuming process but considering my past dealings with them have been them asking what I do, me explaining it for 5 minutes then them replying “I’m just going to write down Website Design” I was quite impressed they wanted to take the time to learn everything from me.
I also had to give them entire breakdowns of everything – my income/expenditure for each website I own for example. The entire process was a LOT of work and the reason I haven’t written anything here in 6 months. It took up a shitload of my time, added a lot of stress and created a huge backlog of work.
However positives came out of it and not just the money. Seeing all my data laid out in front of me it made me look at my websites in a whole new light. I could see the areas where I was overspending, or the websites where I was underspending. Then there were websites I was funnelling money into each month with a negative ROI – some of which had been going on for 3 years without me even noticing.
So it gave me my own idea for 2017 which I’ve already started working on – Website Audits. A massive checklist of stuff I will do for each website to make sure they are performing optimally.
I thought I’d share my step by step guide with you guys in case you wanted to do the same. A lot of it will be personalized to me but there are enough general things on the list that can apply to your own sites. I’ve only did 2 website audits so far and I keep finding new stuff to add – but these are a good way to get going.
#1: Decide If I Want To Keep It
This is the first big decision – do I want to keep this website? I’ll anaylze the traffic, the income etc. I’ll decide if it’s worth keeping or not.
Some are no-brainers of course; they’re my money sites and of course I’ll keep them. Then there are some that are practically worthless and I’ll look at merging them with one of my existing sites. For example after 3 years of running it I’ve not been impressed with traffic/conversions on F1Betting.Tips. No point letting that content and time go to waste – I’ll just 301 it to SportsBettingTips.org and transfer the content there.
Then there are trickier ones. For example a site dedicated to the game Soko Poker – SokoPoker.com. For that one it’s all promoting Fortune Poker which closed like 8 years ago. So I’ll analyze the traffic, see if it gets anything worthwhile and if so look at revamping the site. Add some fresh content, promote an existing poker room etc.
But either way this is where I quickly decide the future of the site. If I decide to close it I move onto 301ing it. If I don’t, then the rest of the list applies:
#2: Filezilla, Roboform, Analytics etc
This is where I do a quick check to make sure I have this site logged properly in all the right places.
– Filezilla: FTP Client I use. Make sure it’s in there.
– Google Docs: Inside the google doc I keep logging all my domains, websites etc.
– Roboform: Make sure I have all the passwords logged in here.
– Webmaster Tools: Make sure it’s in GWT and Bing Webmaster Tools.
– Analytics: Just double check I have analytics on the site.
– Bookmarked: I double check that I have the dashboard bookmarked (for when I do monthly check-ups/updates of all my sites).
#3: Compression & HTAccess Security
Every site I have has this but I’m still double checking – logging into the cpanel and making sure the site is compressed. Then I add something like this to htaccess:
## EXPIRES CACHING ##
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType image/png "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType text/html "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType text/css "access 1 week"
ExpiresByType application/pdf "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access 1 year"
ExpiresDefault "access 1 month"
## EXPIRES CACHING ##
Next – I block the admin from anyone but my IP address – and if I’m partners on a site with someone, with their IP address too. I use WordPress for almost all my sites so it’s a case of adding this:
Deny from all
# whitelist Dealer Dan
allow from 68.194
I have a dynamic IP so I use the wildcard above. The only annoyance is if I have to log in while traveling I need to access my FTP but with the amount of WordPress hacking bots out there it’s worth it.
Replace the  with HTML Tags.
#4: Check Future Posts and Drafts:
Sometimes I schedule posts way in the future to make notes for myself, or I accidently forgot to hit publish or something. Either way I just double check if I have any future post or drafts listed and deal with them accordingly.
#5: Update WordPress
I got a bit slack with WordPress updates throughout the year so I do that for every site. I’ll get back to doing it on a monthly basis once the audits are done.
#6: Update Plugins and Go Through Each One
I check out the notes for each plugin then update it. Then for each website I go through the plugin thoroughly checking all the options etc. I also decide if I need it or not. There are often plugins I have used which I feel are redundant. I also make sure each plugin is configured correctly. Very important to fully understand each WordPress plugin you use.
In some cases I’ll do speed tests of a website(more about that below), disable a plugin and then do another speed test and see how things have changed. In some cases I’ve found the existing plugin is a bit of a resource hog and I’ll look into an alternative or get one coded.
#7: Remove Jetpack, Install Analytics:
For some reason I’m someone that always likes looking at my stats via a WordPress backend when I just want a quick look. I leave Analytics for thorough analysis etc. So the WordPress plugin Jetpack was GREAT for that – it was a quick way to see my top performing pages, traffic over time, keywords etc.
However it’s became a bloated piece of shit over the years and is one of the aforementioned resource hogs. You can turn off a lot of the options but I also found conflicts. Either way I looked for an alternative to Jetpack.
I’m using Google Analytics Dashboard for WP which of course uses Analytics but provides all the quick data I need. Perfect.
#8: Remove Sharing Plugins, Install My Own
Over the years I’ve tested out and installed various sharing plugins. ShareThis, Shareaholic etc. These are cool plugins and all but in their attempt to cater to everyone it means they can become fairly bloated. In the last year I got my own solution coded which is perfect for me.
#9: Install AMP
This is a “maybe” right now. Hopefully you know what AMP is and if you don’t….your goal this year should be to keep updated on things like that. Anyway I’ve got AMP set up on a couple of sites and will be monitoring it to see if it’s worth it.
#10: Check Website on Mobile
I’m not going to say “Make sure my websites responsive” because it’s 2017 – I did that years ago and hopefully you did too. But that doesn’t mean the site is optimized perfectly for mobile. With so many custom designs etc sometimes things are a real mess. Or sometimes there are just oversights.
One example is one of my sites that get 500,000 unique visitors per month – 220,000 of which are mobile users. All of those users were seeing a borked site due to adsense ads that weren’t responsive. So there was ridiculous scrolling required. Think of all those people turned off by that. Then there was another site where it was a case of the stylesheet for the feature area being messed up. Looked perfectly fine on desktop, on mobile it was a disaster.
So it’s things like that where I’ll be going through each site and every template on mobile and getting it fixed where appropriate.
#11: Install TinyPNG
I’ll install TinyPNG on image heavy sites to help the load. However with the cost of it I’m going to look at an alternate solution down the road. However it’s a great resource for lowering those sizes and even if it’s only 50-100kb, the search engines are the ones that will appreciate it.
#12: Transient Cleaner/WP-Sweep
I install these two plugins to help clean up the database. One does it automatically the other you need to go in manually and run. I add that to my monthly to do list and hop into all my sites and run that once a month.
#13: Correct Timezone
Seems like a silly one but I often find my WordPress sites don’t have the correct timezone. I’d say 30% of them at the moment are in PST or GMT when I personally am in EST. Not sure why that is but it’s good to know when publishing in advance it will go the time you request. Especially if you use any services that rely on those times as I do. So I’ll be making sure they’re all in EST.
#14: Update Wordfence Settings
I already have the WordPress plugin Wordfence on all my sites. However I’ve configured the settings differently now thatn when I first started it so it’s a case of updating them on each site.
#15: Clear my Sites Comments
I make sure to go in and clear all the spam comments my sites have. You might think “Hey they’re marked spam what’s the big deal?” However I’ve received notifications from Google in the past warning me I’m linking to malware sites. On inspection I discovered that it was comments marked spam that were still showing up in the source – although not displayed on the site. So well worth deleting them – plus anything to clean up the database the better.
#16: Double Check Site has a Favicon
I’d say all my sites have a favicon or icon but I double check anyway. Stupid not to have one – very helpful for people who bookmark your site on mobile. Or if they bookmark it on browser it makes it stand out etc. Also with multiple tabs open it makes it easy for people to recognize what one is your site.
404 errors often pop up on a site. You don’t do a link right, you change a URL or permalink, an external link changes etc. I like to try and keep on top of these.
I use Xenu first of all to scan my entire sites links and let me know any issues then I fix the. Then I check Webmaster Tools for any 404 issues. Of course those are usually very unhelpful as Google likes to make up URLs and then say “Hey this URL we just made up doesn’t exist”. But either way, good to keep on top of those.
#18: Check error.log
Log into the FTP and check any error.log files. It’s surprising what crap can start appearing in there due to a plugin or design change etc.
#19: Install W3 Total Cache
Earlier this year I spent a good couple of weeks testing out W3 Total Cache vs WP Super Cache.
End of the day I felt W3 Total Cache did a better job the majority of the time. So that’s the plugin I use and I install it on my sites if they don’t already have it. Except for sites with geo-targeting – still working on getting that sorted so I can use the cache plugin everywhere.
#20: Website Optimization
From a technical standpoint – I run my site through the likes of , Webpagetest.org and Tools.Pingdom.com. Anything I can fix to get my scores better I’ll do it. I’ll often have a glance at W3C Validator and anything easily fixable I’ll get that fixed too. One of those things that may or may not help – but it will never hurt.
#21: SEO Analysis of Site
This is where I’ll use various software such as Moz, SEMRush and various other tools to do a thorough analysis of on-page SEO and off-page SEO. There’s WAY too much involved in this process and it’s one of the most time consuming ones. Everything leading up to this is general tweaks etc but this is a big job and I will use it for a variety of things outside of on-page SEO. It can be identifying new keywords, coming up with content ideas, finding new keywords to track and rank for or improve rankings of existing ones etc. Basically coming up with a big SEO plan for the future for each site. One day I’ll hopefully write an article with examples on this.
But this, and UX Analysis, is where you’ll spend 90% of your website audit time if you rely on search engine traffic.
#22: Content/Link Building Planning
After the above, I plan out content for the site. The quantity of content I will put on the site depends on the income of the site and also what the quantity of content vs income ratio is. No point burying a site in content “just because”.
My content plans depending on the website usually range from a low of 1 article per month to a high of 10 articles per day. Similar for backlinks – I look at sites where backlinks are easier, or sites where backlinks are necessary and plan accordingly.
For content planning this is another big job and along with looking up books and analyzing keyword traffic I browse the web and look at my target markets etc. Often I will come up with over 500 article ideas even for smaller sites.
#23: UX Analyis of Site
Similar to the SEO analysis above but looking at improving the user experience. Studying Analytics, monitoring clicks, live traffic etc. Another big job.
#24: Add To My To Do Lists:
I thrive on to do lists. I work off daily to do lists and monthly to do lists. So I make sure any content or work is written down on my to do lists.
For my CFL Tips site for example during the off-season I add 1 article per month, so I have that on my monthly to do list which I open up on the 1st of the month. That site ranks well for its keywords so I’ll generally aim for just 2 backlinks per year on that one – ignoring any natural backlinks of course. Just to keep it strong. For these I wait till close to the new season to build them and add it to my google calendar to e-mail me. It e-mails me, I write some engaging content targeted towards specific sites for backlinks – then contact them to do so.
Just one of many examples.
#25: Monetize All High Traffic Pages
Some of my sites have thousands of pages so it can be hard to go through them all. If it’s an important site I’ll look at doing that eventually – but generally I go through my high traffic pages, optimize them and look to monetize them better. I look at how they’re performing and will implement split testing etc and track and study them for the next little while until I have them performing satisfactorily.
#26: Update Affiliate Links
I’ve been a bit slack with updating affiliate links so I’m going to go through and do that just in case any sites changed the way they track stuff. Especially those programs that update their links but say the old method still works – yeah, I’m suuuure it still does.
On top of that I’ll study clicks to see if I need any specific landing page links. If someone is clicking a lot to visit Lucky Red Casino from Blackjack pages for example – it’d make sense to set up a specific Blackjack landing page for that.
#27: Change All my Passwords
I’ve been a bit lazy with this in the past. Any of my coders or designers I just give them the FTP password or WordPress password to do what they want, rather than set up a unique account for them(and close it when I no longer need them). So I will be changing all my passwords and then in the future will be taking that extra time to set up an account for them.
There’s a hell of a lot of steps to this but the majority of it is easy enough. It’s mostly technical and basic items and the big ones are the SEO/UX Analysis.
It can be a lot of work, but it’s worth it for me for the piece of mind I feel when I think about all my sites performing optimally. It also means I can tackle any fresh projects without any lingering thoughts about existing ones.
Plus man, it just feels damn good to do some cleaning and get rid of sites.