Websites are like cars: they need maintenance. That may come in the form of updating the CMS, security or plugins. The same goes for SEO.
A great SEO strategy will always need reviewing and constant scrutiny of analytics, in order to ensure that you remain on the intended path.
To garner the most success from search engine traffic, a fully-fledged campaign is the best bet, where an individual or team can dedicate the correct amount of time to deliver results.
SEO audits are a slightly different beast. Audit. A word associated with redundancies or the tax man knocking at your door. It’s a word devoid of happy connotations.
But don’t be afraid, they can be very helpful. So where do they fit into the SEO ecosystem, and how can you tell if your website needs one?
What’s involved in an SEO audit?
Carrying on with the car metaphor, not all cars are the same.
The fundamentals might be the same: cylinders, internal combustion, suspension, gears, wheels. But a Lamborghini is not the same as a Skoda.
In the same vein, not all SEO agencies are the same, and SEO audits can differ greatly between agencies in their complexity and depth. The results will therefore differ according to the content of the audit. However, let’s presume that an SEO audit will look at:
The aim? To give an overview of the health of your website with regard to SEO. You should also get a multitude of actionable points according to the strategy, which either you or the agency should implement.
An SEO audit can act as a first point of call for developing an SEO strategy if you don’t already have one, or if you do, as a valuable second opinion that potentially flags up critical issues with your existing strategy. Let’s look at how an SEO audit could benefit your business in each scenario.
Starting from scratch
You have a website, but you don’t feel that you’re getting much in the way of traffic or conversions via search engines. You may or may not have conducted SEO work in the past, but you definitely want to be making more of the potential that search engine optimization offers.
Great! An SEO audit is a fantastic starting point and will provide you with an initial strategy to implement.
It should be noted that the first weeks of an SEO campaign will cover a lot of what would be included in an SEO audit, so you don’t necessarily stand to lose out. The audit should cover the major points of an SEO strategy, leaving you to either implement it yourself or continue the work with an agency.
Why is this a good option? Well, it means that you can test the waters. It is unfortunate that the SEO world is somewhat marred by the presence of black hat practitioners, making the paying client somewhat wary of engaging with an agency, especially if their knowledge is limited or they have previously had their fingers burnt.
The SEO audit should allow them to review the quality of the work produced by said agency and decide whether the working relationship is worth following. In certain scenarios, implementing thorough on-site SEO can result in a jump in rankings* therefore acting as something of a litmus test or a less costly alternative for the budget-conscious.
*This is not to say that an audit will produce the same results as a full campaign. It should, however, (if properly completed and implemented) demonstrate value.
Second opinion: In-house & agency
At Yellowball we like to use the metaphor of the coal face. It is a difficult task when you are at the coal face to take a step back and take a breath. We see this with really good websites. The client will look at it on a daily basis for months which inevitably results in them getting bored of the designs, regardless of whether the new business that they want to attract thinks it looks great.
On the other side of the coin, you can be so involved with something (i.e an SEO campaign) that it is very difficult to take a sense check. Confirmation bias can creep into analytics reviews, and data-driven decisions can turn into more emotional decisions due to the time you’ve already invested into the campaign.
An audit provides a fresh set of eyes. It can bring new ideas or a slight tweak to the strategy that can refresh the campaign and deliver increased results. Depending on whether your SEO strategy is executed by an in-house team or an external agency, there are a couple of ways this can play out:
Audits for in-house teams
The eternal battle between in house teams that know the company and industry inside out compared with agencies that have arguably more up to date SEO knowledge and techniques. Audits can upskill in house teams or refresh an ageing strategy.
Audits for agencies
Monthly retainers put pressures on agency teams to fulfil what was laid out in the proposal. Campaigns often roll on past the original proposal length without pause for breath. An audit will provide an agency with the time to review the campaign’s successes and failures, the original strategy and make amendments.
Depending on how long the campaign has been running this audit can provide valuable insight and amendments which in turn become greater results as you move forward.
Regardless of whether your SEO campaign is run in-house or outsourced to an agency, it is worth considering an audit as a sort of half-time break. A period where you can make your substitutions, change formation and go out into the second half to win the game… Sorry about my excessive use of metaphors.
Second opinion: Audits can solve critical issues
Let’s take a look at a situation where things are not going right. Ditch the rose tinted glasses. Not the easiest situation to be in but one that requires action and one that definitely happens:
You are a business that has been running an SEO campaign in house or with an agency. Great. Except for the fact that it ain’t working. How can an audit help you here?
Close the skills gap
Sometimes there are critical issues which are caused directly by a skills gap. The individual or the team running the campaign just don’t have what it takes. That might be in the form of writing truly awesome content. It might be their ability to approach other websites to provide value and gain links. It may even be a developer who doesn’t have the technical skillset to implement all of the onsite optimization required. Whatever it is, you know that it is holding you back.
This is where you can give very specific instructions to those conducting the audit. They should be able to provide a strategy, guidance or even the specific skillset to solve this critical issue. Solve the problem and the results from the campaign could be drastically different!
Dare we say it, get you out of an expensive contract
This point is likely to be pretty controversial, but we would be lying if we said that the SEO industry was squeaky clean. There are pirates out there. The reality is that digital marketing agencies are a dime a dozen.
As a byproduct, a portion of those businesses that instruct an agency will make the wrong choice. They will go with an agency that promises the world and under-delivers. Worse, they spam the website. The business wants to pull the ejector, but there is a 12 or 24 month contract which they themselves have signed.
Hopefully the contract will dictate the work that was supposed to be carried out on your site, and an audit will provide the evidence to show that this work has not been completed to a satisfactory standard, therefore making the contract void.
It’s not something that we like to talk about, but important nonetheless, and potentially very useful.
So there you have it. An audit can set the initial strategy, provide second opinions for in-house teams and agencies, or even help solve critical issues.
If you can see the value in audits, we would highly recommend scheduling one in; they should be viewed as a positive step to a more lucrative SEO campaign!
If you enjoyed this article, don’t miss our mobile-focused follow-up: How to carry out a mobile SEO audit on your site