What is an SEO Audit?
An SEO Audit identifies changes to make on your website, so that you can either get more organic traffic, or get more conversions from that traffic (typically both!). The audit compares the current state to “best practice” state, with an eye towards closing those gaps as much as possible. Ultimately the recommendations will be implemented by various functional teams, which is why smart SEO audits incorporate a business case and priority for each website optimization.
Ok, now fasten your seatbelt while we take you through a more complete explanation. We’re confident that once you’re done reading this, you’ll come away with a firm grasp of what an SEO audit should incorporate and what the value of it really is to your business. An SEO audit can accurately be described as an analysis of the current state of a website against “best practices” that would position the website towards optimal performance in organic search. Simple enough, but if you Google “What is an SEO Audit,” you’re likely to come back with more questions than answers. Most articles written about performing and understanding SEO Audits assume the reader already has a deep understanding of concepts specific to web development, U/X, or even IT. While SEO Audits are performed by those “in the know,” they are intended to benefit those who aren’t necessarily specialists in these more technical disciplines. We’re going to take some time here to explain what an SEO Audit is, in the simplest terms possible.
What is an SEO Audit Meant to Achieve?
An SEO Audit is meant to take inventory of selective elements of a website that are in some way relevant to its organic search traffic performance. The one thing all the elements have in common is that they have the potential to impact organic traffic in some way if they are changed. When there are positive changes to make, we call those changes “optimizations,” hence the use of the term Search Engine Optimization audit.
What do we mean by a website “element?” Basically, anything having to do with the website itself. What kind of content, how much content, how many pages, what kind of navigation, what kind of response time etc… Anything that can impact how both searchers and search engines perceive the quality of the website.
Why do an SEO Audit?
The approach of an “audit” is used to look at the present state of a website to see how it stacks up against what are considered “SEO Best Practices.” Once those judgments are made, the value the SEO audit brings is in outlining the gaps, with the understanding that filling in those gaps between “what is” vs “what should be” will result in improved organic performance.
Say you have an online retail website selling Hasbro Marvel action figures. You build a product page similar to the one on https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/ for one action figure in particular:
Like Chapters, you include a product description you took from the manufacturer:
So, the copy above includes language like “The powers of flight, superhuman strength and stamina make Mar-Vell a celebrated warrior. With over 80 years of entertainment history, Marvel has become a cornerstone of fan collections around the world.”
Now, if you search for that exact sentence on Google, you’ll find many other websites that have the exact same content on their website’s as well:
Viewed through a standard business lens, this isn’t a problem of any significance. Why not use the manufacturer’s product description? Especially if everyone else is doing it?
From an SEO perspective, this is considered something of a faux pas. To be clear, search engines like Google don’t concern themselves too much with plagiarism or intellectual property. The issue has more to do with the opportunity cost of not including unique product copy.
Every page on your website has the potential to show up in search results, possibly for search terms that are performed by tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people every month. The page will not show up in search results if it has nothing to offer or if what it has to offer is of much less use than the millions of other websites with a similar purpose.
Populating the page with the same content that hundreds of other websites are already employing sends a clear message to search engines and potential customers that your product page has nothing unique to offer. It’s true that the value of the product page to the customer is that they can make a purchase, but unless they can only make a purchase from your website, it’s unlikely search engines will show it prominently in their results.
An SEO Audit will produce an insight like the following:
Current State: Product pages are using manufacturer product description.
Best Practice: Employ unique content that adds value to the user experience on product pages.
As previously mentioned, the next step will be to “close the gap” between the current state and the best practice as much as possible, meaning we want to employ unique content on as many product pages as possible, likely prioritizing the ones that are going to make the biggest impact.
What Should be in an SEO Audit?
An SEO Audit should include anything and ideally everything that can be changed (optimized!) on a website that will lead to improved organic performance. The specific contents of an SEO Audit should vary depending on the date the audit took place, the particular niche, the level of competition, the goals of the website, and the specific client themselves.
While this question is more difficult to answer without getting too technical, a more complete summary of what should be included would look like the following:
- What pages and content cannot be found easily by search engines.
- What pages and content cannot be read properly by search engines.
- What pages and content can be found / read by search engines but are not going to be judged as “better than the competition” by search engines.
In addition, each point should include an explanation as to the underlying cause along with clear direction on what to specifically change to address it. Finally, each issue and accompanying recommendation should be paired with a business case (for example organic traffic projections) and a recommended prioritization.
SEO Audit Methodologies
SEO audits are typically divided up into sections that explore the website health across different dimensions. Each dimension roughly corresponds to different types of search engine ranking factors. Search engines look at a number of different factors (over 200, in fact) that run the gamut from website architecture, to on-page content, to page speed performance, and much more.
Most SEO Audits will go through the elements within a list of subcategories like the following:
- Performance (Page speed, mobile friendliness etc.)
- Off Page evaluation
Each section not only provides a logical “home” for the various elements search engines consider “ranking factors,” but also helps by roughly corresponding to the various functional teams that will ultimately need to execute the recommended changes and improvements.
The Cross Functional Dimensions of an SEO Audit
Since SEO audits touch on many different aspects of a website, their findings will ultimately need to be addressed by many different teams.
For instance, if we’re hoping to address the issue of having the manufacturer content in product pages (our earlier example) we’ll ultimately need the content / creative teams or whoever is responsible for copy creation to get involved. The only way to address the underlying issue is to have a team that can put in the work to create the needed content.
In contrast, and SEO audit might surface an issue with website regionalization. Meaning, for example, you have a website selling products internationally and find that your English pages show up often in organic search in Canada but do not rank well in England. The underlying issue could be that the pages are missing the appropriate HTML tags to properly signal to search engines which country and language they are applicable to. In this case the addition of those missing tags would need to be made by the web developers and go through the company’s internal IT change management process.
Want to Learn More?
If you’re curious to learn more about Media Experts’ approach to SEO Audits or need assistance in shaping an “always on” SEO strategy, please feel free to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can setup a free consultation within the week.