An SEO Audit is a way of looking under the hood of a company's online footprint. The audit allows us to see the what, where, why, how, your business is ranking in search. We are not going to get too technical, but we do want to give you a clear understanding of what an SEO audit is so you will know if your company would benefit from an audit.
There are a few basics of an SEO audit you should understand; there are differences in local search engine optimization and national search engine optimization.
Local search engine optimization means that the business is trying to rank for local searches. These are businesses that usually rely on local traffic into their physical location or phone calls from a specific service area.
A company that needs traditional search engine optimization offers its products and services not based on a specific location or service area. Think of an online store that ships all over the United States, or a blogger that looks for readers everywhere. Basically, with traditional SEO, location does not matter.
Whether you are looking for local search or traditional search, one thing does remain the same, search engine algorithms are constantly changing. One thing that is consistent in all of the changes and that is Google's demand for quality and authority.
Google looks at the domain, the website, the sentiment of the business, and the quality of links that point to the website to judge whether a website should rank or not. The audit looks at each of these elements, compares it to the company's competitors, and then offers recommendations on how to fix it to improve the ranking of the website.
So let's dive in
What the audit Includes
It is easier to understand an audit if you know what it includes. As we mentioned before, search engine rankings have to do with the domain, the website itself, as well as links coming into the website. The search audit looks at both of these elements and then makes recommendations to improve search engine rankings based on sound advice.
A good SEO expert will use the recommendations based on experience as well as what is recommended by Google. We do not omit Bing in the audit. Google just has more traffic and searches per month so we look at Google and their recommendations first.
Google reps, as well as other search experts, state the website is the most important factor that affects rankings. The structure of the website, the images on the website, the website structure as well as many other factors that can affect both local and national search.
We are going to break down each on-site factor and do our best to leave the technical talk out. Our goal of this is just to give the small business owner a good understanding of if they need an audit. So if you hear these terms, you will understand their meaning and can feel more confident about making the decision.
The structure of the website is key to how it ranks in search. Google wants to link to websites that are well structured and will provide the best experience for its searchers.
- Does the layout of the pages make sense?
- How do the pages link together?
There are key features to the coding of the website. These include meta-tags meta-descriptions, as well as other elements that are vital to a website and how it falls in a search query. The SEO audit evaluates these important tags and recommends changes to help them rank better.
If it is a local website, there are tags that directly communicate with the search engine to let it know what type of business it is, the location, how to reach them, etc.
There are many elements that go into a search engine audit. Again, the website is the most crucial part of how a website ranks in search. It is vital that you know the things that may be causing your website not to rank.
Can a small business survive or rank without a website? Perhaps, however, sources like social networks are not owned by the small business owner. Therefore, the owner has no control. The more control the small business owner has, the better it will serve the company's interests. We see this more with smaller, locally-based companies. The website is still the foundation and Google looks to it for confirmation that you are who you are and do what you do.
Off-site elements included in the SEO Audit
The off-site elements that affect a websites' search rankings are based on links from other websites linking to yours. Let's give an example. You set up a Facebook page for your business. When you are filling out your profile, you include your address, phone number, and website address for your business. This places the link to your website on Facebook and is now linking to you. This example is simple but is just as simple to set up these basic links coming into the website.
The search audit will evaluate the links coming into the website. It looks at the number of links, the value of the link, and if it is a reciprocal link.
You want links and a lot of them, but not all links are good links. If the audit uncovers bad links, you will see a recommendation to remove/disavow them.
Building good-quality links isn't easy. Outside of social media and basic citations, you will want links coming from bloggers, organization-type websites. Depending on your industry, authoritative websites differ.
Companies that are relying on local searches will want local links. These links come from other locally-based websites. As an example, a restaurant would want a link from the blog of the local food critic. Bloggers and other authoritative people may charge for this.
What will the SEO expert need to do an audit?
For the SEO expert to do the audit, they will need access to a few things. The key is not to give them too much access unless they are working on fixing the issues that relate to the audit. We'll discuss that a little bit later.
This would include
Read-only access to analytics
Read-only access to search console
Read-only access to Bing Webmaster tools
The search expert has tools it will use to look at the other items we have discussed that affect ranking.
They will also need:
A few of your competitors
Keywords you are trying to rank for
History of the website
Other SEO efforts you have done in the past.
The SEO expert should have a questionnaire or conduct a recorded phone interview so that these details can be factored in with the audit.
Once the audit is complete, the search expert will provide a complete breakdown of the tasks that are needed to achieve rankings.
Common Question Why do search engine optimization efforts fail?
With any project, there is a chance for failure. This section is to help increase the likelihood that your search audit and the campaign will be successful. Set clear expectations of time and results, set a clear schedule, give accurate information (keywords, competitors, etc), and be open to adjusting as things change.
What do we mean about change?
Google likes to keep it interesting for us. Google makes on average 500 to 600 changes to the search algorithm per year. Depending on when you get your audit and when you take action to fix the items that are in the audit it may need to be updated. Meaning if Google made a change to its algorithm that changes something in the audit your search expert will be able to help and look at that one part again and be able to modify that audit.
This topic is on my list to expand upon soon. This list should give you a start though.
Once you have the audit, you have a few choices. Depending on your knowledge, or the abilities of your staff you can do the work or hire an expert the knock out all or part of the tasks.
You have a staff that is capable of handling the tasks of the audit. In this case, the search expert would hand you the audit, and that would be it. The search expert should make themselves available should any questions come about however they will not be performing the tasks within the audit.
You or someone on your staff has the capability of doing some of the tasks from the audit. This allows you to keep the cost down on implementation.
One thing to note this is not an opportunity for the SEO person to train you on how to implement the tasks in the audit you should already have an understanding of how to do this in the beginning.
You were too busy to do any of it or do not possess the skills to carry out the tasks at hand. At this point, you would need to rely on a search expert to carry out the tasks inside the audit for you.
What to Expect Option Two or Three
After the audit is complete and the tasks have been divvied out it is important to keep up with the project so that both you and your search expert have a clear understanding of what the expectations are as well as a timeframe in which the tasks will be done.
Your search expert may have access to a project management system. These systems can lay out pending tasks, deadlines, and completed tasks. These systems are also great at keeping track of comments made; you can upload attachments, as well as other items that can help you keep track of the project better.
Each search expert works a little differently so if they do not have a project management system that is okay. Just make sure that you feel confident in the task that you have to perform, they have to perform, and that there is an outline of time so that everyone is on the same page.
It takes a little time to see results
Depending on the amount of work needed to achieve your goals, it will take some time to complete the tasks. But also keep in mind that search engines take the time to process the changes against its complex algorithms and then decide how to rank you.
Since our job is to prove to the search engines that we deserved to rank for the keywords, industry, or location we are trying to rank for, it is not immediate. If you have the search expert helping you with tasks, they should stay on task and follow up to make sure the search results are achieved.
How much is an SEO audit?
Since there is no industry standard, the cost will depend on the expert. There are factors that go into the cost of an SEO audit. It depends on the size of the website if your goal is to rank in the local area, if your goal is to rank nationwide, or other factors that would affect the time it takes to put the audit together.
In our experience, search engine audits range in price from $800 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Do not let that alarm you. The higher dollar amounts usually mean that it is a large national brand that has millions of links, thousands of pages, and more that would have to become through to see how they affect rank.
If you are looking into an audit and the price is so low, I would be careful as you get what you pay for.
Are there additional costs?
In the three options that we stated above, there would be some extra cost if the SEO expert was to help you carry out the tasks. It is customary for them to charge for this, so do not be alarmed.
Each expert charges differently some will ask for a retainer, you are retaining them for certain hours per month or per year, the monthly rate for a certain number of months might be 500 a month for six months as an example. Or the search expert might just do it on a project basis meaning you pay them an amount all upfront or half upfront and the remaining half when it is finished for all of the tasks at hand.
If you need to rank in search, an SEO audit gives you a clear understanding of what it will take to achieve results. Without an audit, it is like pulling up to a mechanic cutting off your car, and asking the mechanic what is wrong with your car. You haven't looked under the hood you just know something is wrong. The SEO audit takes the guesswork out of this process and gets you straight to what matters and what works to rank in search.
If you have trouble ranking in search, we would be happy to help by performing an audit on your online presence. We do search audits, website, audits, and local search audits based on your needs and goals.