A lot has been spoken and written by now about SEO audits, or SEO analyses. You can find usable analyses and reports, informative infographics or checklists supposed to help you kick off or fine-tune your project in terms of SEO. However, there are still people or even entire organizations that think of SEO audit as something unnecessaryor something automatically generated in “some kind of software”. It still seems that SEO audit is absolutely necessary on one hand and totally useless on the other. Undeniably, there are companies that imagine an SEO audit as an eye-catching document with data obtained using universal and free solutions (e.g. PageSpeed Insight information). It’s not that bad if you get such an audit as an interesting addition to website promotion; worse if you’re asked to pay for it! An SEO audit is generally of little use, especially for bigger websites (meaning websites with plenty of pages and various page views and templates). So let’s have another look at what an SEO audit actually is.
What is an SEO audit?
An SEO audit itself is the name of a service consisting in an analysis of a website in order to identify any and all errors and problems, but also opportunities and possibilities which can be seized to improve a website, thus to increase its position in search results. An SEO audit (alternatively an SEO analysis) is sort of a SWOT analysis of a website in the context of its functioning and visibility on the Internet. An SEO audit is carried out by an SEO specialist or specialists who apply their own knowledge and experience and employ diverse original and widely available tools, sometimes paid ones as well. The most frequent outcome of an SEO audit is a text document containing recommendations and remarks which, when brought to life, will make any website more SEO-friendly.
How to tackle an SEO audit to tap its potential?
First of all, remember that in the end an audit is for people. Sometimes for software web designers, sometimes for businessmen, that is those who work with numbers, make plans and deal with matters not related to web development&design – either marketing department or management. But it can be an SME business owner as well. It’s a good practice to use a language understandable for everyone when carrying out an SEO audit. Second of all, an SEO audit should provide only useful and accurate information. Telling an audit addressee that “the <H1> tag shouldn’t be put in a website logo” is no information at all. It’s worth explaining why that’s not a good idea (or is it?), what can be done, what are risks and opportunities. Perhaps it’s also a chance to inform him or her that the website should be revamped and brought up to the latest standards, including HTML5 where a greater number of <H1> tags is not a problem. What’s more, telling that “the meta keywords tag should contain 5 keywords” is absurd because Google doesn’t support this tag since 2007. I mention that only because I’ve recently stumbled upon guidelines describing this meta keywords tag. And last but not least, it should be possible to transform an audit document into a list of prioritized tasks for designers and developers or people responsible for content. It’d be a huge advantage which, and I’m sure of it, will be appreciated more than once, particularly in bigger organizations. Actually there’s been emerging a tendency to provide the client not with a document with recommendations, but with a list of specific tasks in Trello. This approach to website improvement can drastically reduce time needed for effecting all changes.
What should an SEO audit include?
An SEO analysis may tackle various aspects of a website. The following constitute a good SEO audit:
- Analysis of the server operation and connection between the server and the user’s browser
- Analysis of website behavior in search results (SXO – Search eXperience Optimization)
- Analysis of the website code and optimization tips (so-calledtechnical SEO)
- Analysis of internal linking, including crawl budget
- Analysis of content relevance and optimization tips
- Analysis of inbound links
- Analysis of website traffic (using e.g. Google Analytics or Google Search Console).
Many of the above are intertwined. For instance, when analyzing internal linking, you can discuss content as well because links can be in the text. You can advise to add links directing to other articles.
Can an SEO audit be done for free?
Of course it can! However, remember that certain information or data is more difficult to find using only free solutions primarily due to limited accessibility to datasets or due to the inability to take advantage of some options or tools. Nonetheless, a free-of-charge SEO audit requires access to such tools as:
- Google Search Console (formerly: Google Webmaster Tools)
- Google Analytics
- PageSpeed Insight/GTMetrix/Pingdom Tool.
Other information can be obtained using either 14-day trials or free versions of software, though free versions are limited in content. To name a few:
- Screaming Frog
Having data obtained with the help of such tools as well as knowledge of website operation, we’re able to perform a relatively accurate SEO audit of a given website. Information gathered for free is usually handy in the case of small websites with few pages. For larger websites with a longer history, data generated by those tools will be so extensive that the limits set for free accounts will be quickly reached. If you decide on a free-of-charge solution, you’ll need much more time to collect and analyze information, but in the end you should get what you’re after. If you’re looking for a free “click and forget” SEO audit, then, unfortunately – to the best of my knowledge – you’ll not find a free tool capable of generating a complete and accurate SEO audit with guidelines and recommendations. You can obviously use PageSpeed Insight which will offer you some hints about optimizing your website, but they won’t do much good in terms of its visibility in the search engine, unlike paid solutions; Senuto has an advanced audit generation module, give it a go.
When to perform an SEO audit?
An SEO analysis of a website may be performed in a few pivotal moments of its life. In each of these moments, an SEO audit – even though similar in methodology – might extract different conclusions from the same information. So when is the best time for an SEO analysis?
1. Development of a completely new website
At this stage, an SEO audit focuses usually on poorly optimized code, internal linking, and meta tags. It’s impossible to verify how a website will behave in search results because most of the times websites are stored on a server cut off from the world that can be accessed by a couple of people. This is the phase when the website, its functioning process, and content are polished and finished off. An audit at this point of website’s life can also examine graphics or UX/UI elements. Resulting recommendations may be about fixing possible mistakes and errors made while developing the website.
2. Website implementation
Once the website is implemented and submitted to the Google Search Console, and assuming that neither SEO audits nor SEO consultations have been effected yet, it’s worth performing an SEO analysis in order to eliminate any undiscovered mistakes and errors. A well-implemented and search-engine-optimized website can start generating traffic and interest right off the bat! A well-optimized website may actually need nothing but some polishing now and then. If the website has been optimized prior to placing it on the Internet, there’s nothing more to do than to improve its visibility in search results, ensure correct indexation, and eliminate any errors that might occur in indexation.
3. Analysis of competition in the current situation of the website
If your website has been on the Internet for some time now, you can check what helped your competition overtake you. It’s not always the matter of links! Sometimes, your competitor changes one thing on its website and almost immediately gets ranked higher than you in search results. If that happens, go and check if there’s anything to improve on your website as well. But don’t wait until you feel you’re losing! Fixing your website can surprise your competitors and a few changes can bring you a lot of good in terms of visibility in search results. That means an SEO audit proves useful and it’s worth implementing resulting recommendations if you hit the wall.
4. Verification whether any changes to the website are needed
Sometimes you can feel like refreshing your website; it might pop into your mind or someone can suggest it to you. Generally, if your website is older than 3 years, go through it to see whether it’s up to the current standards or at least if it’s mobile-friendly and has a secure https protocol. An SEO analysis may tell you that everything is fine with your website, although a relatively few small things could be done to improve it without total re-development. Worse if it turns out that the website should be re-built from a scratch. But don’t despair! If you used to generate any
profit from your old website, there’s a good chance that its improved version will make you earn even more! New website means new opportunities.
5. Generation/Identification of quick wins
Whether your website’s still in its infancy or is already in advanced age, you may want to get quick SEO results. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about getting ranked high through links gained rapidly, but rather about what web developers/ website admins could do to improve the visibility of either individual website resource or the entire website with a little effort and for a low price. Such a ‘quick win’ may involve deleting the line “user-agent: *; disallow: /store” from the store page in order for it to finally be indexed. A quick win might be as well handpicking a few keywords from among TOP3–10 in search results and attempting to place them in the first three positions of search results. All of this can generate both more traffic on your website and more money for business. Quick wins are particularly effective on websites that already generate some traffic and have a certain history. Then, it’s possible to collect relevant information regarding keywords, seasonality or tasks that can be implemented.
6. Fixing what needs to be fixed
There are plenty of things which can lower the visibility of a website or – in extreme cases – even get it completely removed from search results. In such a situation, an SEO audit is supposed to diagnose a problem and suggest a solution to it. Possible problems include, but are not limited to, duplicate content, issues with internal linking or, which is probably the most frequently encountered problem, too aggressive linking to the website. Predominantly, the essence of an audit are recommendations and an analysis of content, inbound links or just a diagnosis of problems arising from the website’s operation and their impact on Google algorithm updates.
A SEO audit as a continuous service?
Sometimes, particularly in the case of websites undergoing frequent changes (e.g. news websites), it would be a good idea to carry out an SEO audit at least once a month, or even every two or three days. Such an audit would concern content and perhaps internal linking; a more appropriate name for this kind of service would be SEO consulting or SEO on-going support.
How much an SEO audit cost?
It’s difficult to tell how much an SEO audit should cost. A lot depends on the size of a website, technologies employed, and a number of views and templates used. The more time the SEO specialist needs to spend on analyzing a website, the more the client will have to pay. Brand recognition may also affect the price, since an SEO specialist can think that an international corporation will be able to fork out for an SEO analysis when compared to a small business for a similar website.