Most of the time when we hear the word “audit,” our minds immediately picture run-ins with the IRS, unsavory tax attorneys and boxes of old business receipts. But, don't panic! Because not all audits are the same.
In fact, an SEO audit is a good thing. It’s an absolutely essential process that will empower your business with real, actionable insights. When done correctly, an SEO audit will tell you what’s working on your current website, what’s falling short and how you can improve your site to rank higher and generate more leads.
What type of site audit does your business need?
With a website audit, you pay a company to forensically examine your site and apply its expertise to identify problems and offer solutions. Most comprehensive audits contain the follow elements:
Overall health: How does your current traffic compare against industry benchmarks? Are there any initial red flags, like a recent change in bounce rate, referrals or time on the site that are reasons for investigation? This general health assessment will identify potential problems your SEO team should further investigate.
Overall health edits include a holistic analysis of your site, internal linking structures, site map, anchor text, citations and social media profiles. Depending on the scope of your audit, the assessment may also include technical elements, like hosting, server metrics, caching and down time. Remember, site load time is a key SEO performance metric.
Red flag/penalties: Are there any SEO practices in use on your site that are known to generate a red flag or penalty from Google that could hurt your site rank? SEO best practices change rapidly and what made sense from a ranking statement just a few years ago could be landing you in hot water today. It can be hard to keep up with all the algorithm changes, so I recommend bringing in the experts on this one.
Competitive audits: How does your website stack up against the competition? While an overall health assessment will certainly touch on general industry benchmarks, a competition audit will be much more in-depth. What are competitors doing that your website is not? For example, the competition may have a better site map and search system in place. Maybe they’ve optimized product listings with long-tail keywords, and you have not.
Or, better yet, maybe the competition is failing to implement industry best practices and, should your site implement them, you'll gain a clear competitive advantage. The key here is to identify otherwise overlooked opportunities for enhancements on your site.
Penalties and negative attacks: Could a downturn in site traffic be due to an SEO violation or penalty? An experienced agency can determine whether your site has been algorithmically or manually penalized or been the victim of an attack by negative SEO methods.
In-house or agency: Which is best?
So, you’re ready to undertake a proper SEO website audit. Should you go with an agency or handle this in-house? It’s possible to manage the entire process internally. Both Moz and Search Engine Land have published comprehensive guides to performing basic audits, internally. However, keep in mind that your ability to identify and correct problems is limited by your team’s expertise.
If your internal SEO team happens to be the best and brightest, this won’t be a problem. But if your SEO “team” is one overworked staffer in your marketing department (who is also juggling social media updates, blog articles and inbound lead generation), you’re better off outsourcing.
A comprehensive audit is a major undertaking. That’s because an audit should not stop with a list of what’s working and what’s not. It’s not enough to identify problems. You need to take immediate, actionable steps to implement changes. And agency teams are typically better positioned to help you make these changes.
Teams also bring a wealth of best-practice experience. The team at Digital Rescue, for example, has reviewed more than 4,000 websites and saved clients thousands when it comes to costly SEO mistakes. Many agencies also offer free or low-cost basic site audits, which can be useful for determining whether the agency is the right fit for your business’ long-term SEO needs.