A Simple SEO Audit Guide For Your Online Business
A successful SEO strategy requires a starting point, and for most of us, that means an SEO audit. Unfortunately, many are more confused by their audit than they are by their initial SEO questions, but that’s about to change.
As an SEO professional, I know that you cannot move forward until you have a solid, actionable plan, and you cannot have a plan without solid, actionable research and data, which is exactly what an SEO audit is supposed to be.
I highly recommend that a business outside of the SEO or digital marketing industry outsource their SEO audit instead of trying to do it themselves. However, there are some who can do it with their in-house digital marketing team or tech team if they have the know-how and resources.
Still fuzzy on SEO audits? Let’s fix that.
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What is an SEO audit?
Unsurprisingly, an SEO audit is similar to what it sounds like -- an audit (analysis) of your online business’s SEO (factors that affect how easily you are found online).
A good SEO audit should touch on your website’s technical features as well as on-page and off-page ranking factors, and competition within your industry. Sound like a lot? It should be. Essentially, if you are getting a three-page "SEO audit" from your digital marketing company, you should be looking for a new digital marketing company.
Your SEO audit is only as good as its tools.
Every SEO audit is unique because the site being analyzed is unique. But they should all have one thing in common: they should all be created with professional tools (notice the plural).
An SEO audit that just includes some marketer telling you what they think is wrong might be helpful, but it’s not a true audit. You should require professional tools involving research and algorithms to be used in addition to professional opinions. Why? Because those tools were created for a reason. Whether your SEO audit pulls from sites like SEMrush or Screaming Frog SEO Spider, they should have data backing them up.
In addition to the above, here are a few more places where valuable data can be gathered for a thorough SEO audit:
• Google Analytics
• Google Search Console
• Google Page Speed Insights
• Google Lighthouse
Unsurprisingly, Google is actually a great place to grab data from, since Google is currently the king of search engines and offers so many tools to help your ranking aspirations.
The bulk of your SEO audit should be about ranking factors.
There are over 200 Google ranking factors, which means your SEO audit should spend a great deal of time (and length) working through these and giving recommendations. If you aren’t sure what ranking factors are, here are just a few high-impact ones that your audit should be assessing:
• Content length
• Information structure
• Site layout/user experience (UI/UX)
• Keyword use/overuse
• Bounce rate and click-through-rate
• H1, H2, H3 Tags
• Meta descriptions
• Alt tags and image optimization
• New content and frequent updates
• HTML markup
• Internal linking and external linking
• Site speed
• Mobile readiness/friendliness
• Broken links, warnings and errors
• Authority, trust, and age of the domain
• And about 175 more…
Your SEO audit needs to be discerning.
Though comparing yourself to others isn’t always a great practice, it is when it comes to your SEO audit. Make sure whoever is creating your audit knows that you expect a section on competition research and how your closest competitors are beating you (and how you are beating them).
There are many tools that can be used here as well to show you the SEO strategy of your rivals. Use this section to see where their strategy is working and build upon it, and where it is failing them, and then talk with your digital marketing firm about how to avoid those same pitfalls. This section should include actionable next steps for you and your firm to follow.
Of course, if you’ve decided to get an SEO audit, it’s probably from a company with SEO experience, which means you should never be thrown into a multi-page document without any assistance or guidance.
Finally, your SEO audit should be understood.
Even if it isn’t understandable to begin with (many online businesses don’t fully understand SEO), that’s okay because the point of an SEO audit is to gain insights about your online business. And those insights might need explanation if you aren’t well-versed in digital marketing, search engines and rankings.
Ultimately, an SEO audit is only helpful if it is understood, and an SEO company is only good if it is helpful. Choose an experienced, data-driven and professional digital marketing company for your SEO audit. But also choose a good, trustworthy and transparent digital marketing company that will sit down with you to explain their audit in plain terms.
Like in many aspects of business, you need to be picky and make the firm you choose earn your business. That’s actually why many companies offer free SEO audits -- to show you what they can do. So, don’t be wowed by some sub-par document they send you and forget about.
I hope you understand a little more clearly what an SEO audit is, what it should include and what you should expect, so you can better judge the offers your online business gets, the companies you could work with, and the value a thorough, professional SEO audit can provide.
Video: Catalyst’s Paul Shapiro on going beyond technical SEO
In my next vlog interview, I sat down with Senior Partner, Head of SEO at Catalyst, Paul Shapiro to discuss his thoughts on going beyond technical SEO.
By that he means, looking beyond just crawling and indexing when it comes to technical SEO. In addition to the basics of technical SEO, he talked about using natural language processing for improving content development and SEO. We discussed how to conduct SEO testing, and how to approach a new client with a technical SEO mindset.
Here is that video interview (sorry for the video quality on this one):
I started this vlog series recently, and if you want to sign up to be interviewed, you can fill out this form on Search Engine Roundtable. You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel by clicking here.About The Author Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on SEM topics.