If you have a business, chances are you also have a website. And if you have a website, you know that optimizing that website for search engines is one of the best ways to organically grow your company’s online traffic. But in today’s quickly evolving digital landscape, search engine optimization (SEO) means more than simply building your website with Google in mind — it also means regularly evaluating your website and identifying new opportunities to level up its performance. Enter: the SEO audit.
What is an SEO audit?
Think of an SEO audit like a safety inspection for your car. Your website might be getting visitors from Point A to Point B, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things that could be improved under the hood. And whether your business sells cars, clothes, or content marketing packages, your website will occasionally need a tune-up.
An SEO audit evaluates a range of performance factors to identify places where your website can be improved. Because search engine algorithms change all the time, SEO best practices — such as the best length for blog posts and the best way to write meta descriptions — can change too. Routine audits will help you ensure your website stays compliant with search engine updates. Conducting a thorough audit will also help you locate any outstanding issues that are preventing you from ranking well on search engine results pages (SERPs). By correcting these issues, you can improve the efficiency of your site, boost your search engine rankings, and remain competitive in the marketplace.
How do I perform an SEO audit?
If your business website is due for an SEO audit, you can tackle the project yourself or bring in outside help. Whether you decide to conduct your own audit or hire a professional, there are a few things you will want to keep in mind to ensure your audit is as thorough as possible.
The DIY SEO audit
A comprehensive SEO audit evaluates a variety of elements. If you’re conducting your own audit, a checklist can help you stay on track. The specific domain factors you prioritize will depend on the needs of your business, but optimizing the components below is a great way to boost the performance of any website.
Domain factors include the name, age, and registration length of your web address. Your domain name should be relatively short and easy to type. Be sure to avoid using numbers, hyphens, and other complex characters, which make your web address more difficult for users to remember and are typically associated with spammy domains.
You can also learn more about the history of your domain using external tools such as Ahrefs or SEMrush. Dig into your domain’s link profile to make sure it wasn’t affiliated with spammy SEO campaigns before you acquired it, as a history of shady link-building tactics can make your white hat SEO efforts an uphill battle.
It’s best to evaluate domain factors before you ever commit to purchasing a domain name for your business, but revisiting them during your SEO audit can help you catch any red flags before a new campaign or major redesign.
Web pages with thin content tend to be penalized by search engines. Short, shallow, and unoriginal content will bring the authority of your website down in the eyes of both web crawlers and consumers, so it’s important to identify thin pages to bulk out during your audit. You can use a tool like Screaming Frog to quickly crawl your site and find any landing pages and blog content with low word counts.
But what exactly is a low word count? While there is no magic number, most SEO experts recommend pages have at least 300 words to avoid being penalized for thin content. The best length for a blog post is typically even longer — usually between 1500 and 2000 words, depending on the industry you are writing for. During your audit, you can assess the content length of your most successful competitors and use this data to build out your own pages.
Technical SEO optimizes your site for search engine crawlers. You can design the most beautiful website in the world, but if it doesn’t have a strong technical foundation, it will never soar to the first page of Google.
Updates keep your website’s content fresh and exciting, but if changes are not carefully monitored, they can also present new opportunities for disaster. Your SEO audit should monitor any updates since the last review for signs of site mismanagement.
Check for site uptime issues as well as any duplicate meta information that may have been introduced during the creation of new content, and confirm that Google Analytics and Google Search Console coding has been injected into each new page. You can also run usability and mobile optimization tests on any pages that have recently been added to the site.
Every piece of content on your website should be created with keyword research and SEO best practices in mind. Prioritize keyword integration in your title tags, headers, and body content, but be on the lookout for signs of keyword stuffing and keyword cannibalization.
Your on-page content should be presented in a way that makes sense to the user, but there should be a logical structure to the underlying code as well. Check to make sure your website is using standard semantic HTML appropriately so that both consumers and search engines can make sense of your site.
The SEO audit is a chance to periodically evaluate the link profile of your website and ensure that harmful links are disavowed before they can negatively impact your search engine rankings. The health of your link profile can be impacted by everything from the number of outbound links on a page to the rate at which your link profile grows or shrinks. Programs such as SEMrush and Link Detox can help you track the various factors affecting your link profile and correct any penalties your site currently has.
Hiring a company
Not every business has the time or technical expertise to conduct its own SEO audit. If the thought of a DIY audit makes your head spin, consider bringing in an outside company to conduct the audit for you. Hiring a dedicated SEO specialist or team can help ensure that your audit is done properly and thoroughly, but there are a few steps you should take first to make sure the company you’re considering is the right fit for your SEO needs.
Learn about their process
No two SEO companies are exactly alike, and the services provided in one audit package may be very different from those offered in another. To make sure the services you are paying for align with your needs, ask the provider you are considering to outline the stages of their audit process and the specific deliverables you can expect at each stage.
Their audit process should consist of the same core elements as a DIY audit. If the company you’re considering overlooks any of these key factors, or if they cannot easily and clearly explain the steps of their audit process when asked, it could be a serious red flag.
Ask about their expectations
SEO may seem like sorcery to some, but it isn’t magic. The company you work with should be able to provide you with realistic expectations about the results of their services. Be wary of any company that promises overnight improvement or drastic results. Even the most well-crafted SEO campaign cannot guarantee your site a spot at the top of the rankings, and it can often take up to six months to see even small gains from your efforts. Ask the company you are considering what results you can expect from their SEO audit. Their answer can be optimistic, but it should also be realistic.
Discover their reporting methods
Part of your ongoing relationship with the company you hire will be receiving reports about the status of your SEO audit. The best companies will provide consistent reports using metrics that align with the anticipated results they identified at the beginning of the process.
Ask for a sample report to see what kind of information you can expect to receive as a client. You might also ask what tools they plan to use during your SEO audit. If you have access to any of the same tools, you can use them to confirm that the company you hire is providing you with accurate metrics.
Get a commitment to transparency
The company conducting your SEO audit should be committed to transparency throughout every stage of the process. Make sure they are prepared to give you real-time updates about what they are working on and the status of any deliverables, especially if they need to detour from the original plan for any reason. Keeping the lines of communication open will help keep your project on track and give you peace of mind.
Why should I hire a company to perform my SEO audit?
If you already have some SEO experience under your belt, conducting your own audit can be an affordable way to keep your website in top shape. But if you don’t have the time to implement a thorough audit as part of your routine site maintenance tasks — or if SEO is totally uncharted territory for you and your team — it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the DIY approach.
Hiring an external team to perform your SEO audit is a great option if your company doesn’t have the time or resources to do it yourselves. But even businesses with some technical knowledge and time to spare may find that they get more out of hiring an outside company. Industry norms, best practices, and search engine algorithms change all the time, and dedicated SEO specialists stay up to date with these changes so you don’t have to. By putting your SEO audit in the hands of the right company, you can increase the reach and revenue of your business most effectively without sacrificing efficiency.
Are you ready to boost your search engine rankings, drive more organic traffic to your website, and grow your business? Book a discovery call to learn how Lightning Media Partners’ SEO Audit services can help take your brand to the next level.
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