The SEO audit and what you absolutely need to know about it
Good SEO, in order to bring one's own pages to the front even without expensive Google ads, is, together with content management, one of the basics for marketing managers in non-marketing companies.
To put it straight: I strongly recommend hiring an SEO agency for the SEO audit. Since search engine optimization is very time-consuming, if you have a small marketing budget you should concentrate on a good agency that will carry out a very good SEO audit for you with all the necessary outputs and then rather invest your time and energy in the good implementation of the audit recommendations for your website. You can also learn more about the expenses for search engine optimization in the article Search Engine Optimization.
The 5 biggest mistakes in SEO auditing
Companies that are not marketing-oriented shy away from spending money on search engine optimisation. In the B2B sector, we still find companies that think spending on websites is excessive. After all, you can do it yourself. Doing it yourself can lead to serious mistakes:
- People work with only one tool for cost reasons, which leads to distorted findings.
- Lack of know-how and practice means that data cannot be interpreted correctly, which leads to false conclusions.
- Often, data is merely reported and there is no explanation and prioritisation of important SEO improvement areas.
- The audit is not followed by action because no resources have been planned for the implementation of the findings.
- People get stuck on individual technical results.
Benefits of a professional SEO audit
A website whose offer cannot be found cannot generate leads.
An SEO audit brings fourfold benefits:
- You receive a content-related and technical analysis of the strengths, weaknesses and thus the potential of your website with regard to search engine optimisation.
- You receive an official document that you can show to management and claim as a resource for remedying the weaknesses.
- You can compare the results with those of the next SEO audit and thus document your success
- You get a competent look at your pages from SEO experts and insight into where you stand with regard to the competition.
Effort and costs an SEO audit entails
An SEO audit with an agency takes about 4-5 days from the time of commissioning for around 250 sub-pages until you have the results in your hands. If it is only a very small website, correspondingly less. Of course, the time required also depends on the number of pages and, if applicable, sub-pages of a corporate website. The time given is based on the regular website of a medium-sized company with 300 employees and English and German pages. After that, the same time has to be planned again for the IT developers who have to fix the technical findings. This figure also depends on how many IT resources you have available and how they are scheduled.
If you want to manage the findings of a professional SEO audit with on-board resources, you will need several weeks, i.e. a multiple of time. You may first have to buy the tool licences, complete induction training and then you still lack experience in interpreting the data.
Purpose of the SEO audit
The purpose of an SEO audit is to evaluate your web presence in terms of optimisation for the Google search engine. It is about identifying all possible obstacles that may hinder the search engines in crawling and capturing the content of your pages and thus lead to a poor ranking.
SEO requirements are very extensive
For fun, when talking about SEO, I like to show Sebastian Erlhofer's standard work on the subject, which is over 1,000 pages thick, and let the 15 cm thick rind crash down on the desk and explain that this is a comprehensive introduction to the subject. This causes surprise among my often technical interlocutors, who did not expect such a scope.
Although we put ourselves entirely in the hands of the monopolist Google when it comes to search engine optimisation, it is a very wide-ranging topic for which one needs in-depth expertise. The exact algorithm on which Google is based is not known to anyone outside of Google. Nor does anyone know exactly at what points in time which changes are brought about. Google itself publishes an extensive description of its criteria, which is available to everyone free of charge. However, I doubt that it is a good investment to read through all that. If you are interested, you can google "Google SEO Guide" and you will come across the Google developper pages with a lot of information.
If you have little budget and hardly any manpower, then there is no way around a good SEO audit carried out by an equally good SEO agency.
Preparation of the SEO audit
Before the SEO audit, you should determine the following things:
- Which URLs all fall under the audit and should be optimised in the next step.
- Who internally will take over the implementation of the errors according to the priority plan. These people belong in the team with the agency.
- The demands placed on the SEO agency and the budget available.
- The contents of the SEO audit
The contents of the SEO audit
The SEO audit usually includes the following points:
- Introduction with goal and purpose of the audit
- Status quo of the website regarding
Development and benchmarks
Keyword strategy (transaction-oriented and information-oriented)
Is the sitemap correct and findable?
Are there any nofollow links?
Which links lead to 400 pages (e.g. 404 Site not found?)
Which links lead to redirects or entire redirect chains?
Are status codes such as 301, 302, 307 and 308 used correctly?
How many server errors are there and which ones?
Is https used or only http?
Is content being used twice? (duplicate content internal or external)
Is the URL spelling correct?
Are the canonical tags set correctly?
Are the hreflangs set correctly (translation display)?
Are too many recurring text modules used?
- Architecture of the page
Is the URL and directory structure too nested? How many sub-levels are there?
Is it understandable and clear?
Is the breadcrumb navigation correct?
Is the navigation understandable and easy to find?
- Internal linking
Google rewards sensible internal links and they are also helpful for the user, as they lead him to further topics and explanations.
Does the internal linking have integrity?
Is the content relevant and useful?
Is it easy to understand?
Are they presented in a variety of media? (with infographics, video elements, images with added value?
Are favicons used?
Does Google reward content with snippets or rich snippets?
Are the titles and descriptions correct?
Is the data structured? Does the headline structure make sense?
Are there rich snippets of content? e.g. FAQ pages or reviews or breadcrumbs?
Do all images have an alt attribute, a file name and a text surrounding the image?
Thin content and soft-404 errors?
- Loading speed
Are the images the right size or too large? (long loading time)
Are progressive jpegs used?
Are the image formats up to date?
Does the browser caching work?
Are the server response times and the Content Delivery Network (CDM) acceptable?
- Mobile friendliness?
Is it a responsive site that also looks great in mobile view? (Mobile First!)
Do other sites link to your own website? Which ones? What traffic comes in through it?
- Conclusion and evaluation
- Suggest priorities for remedial action
*Transactional means that users of the site want to buy something. Information-oriented means that users are looking for information. Both intentions can play a role, whereby the information orientation is more common in B2B business with complex goods and services. The actual purchase is rarely made online. It is different when you offer products for direct purchase via a catalogue and shop.
A SEO agency is indispensable
This overview is peppered with online digital marketing terminology and specialised knowledge, which is why I definitely recommend finding an agency for this. Nevertheless, it is useful if you know roughly what should be considered in the SEO audit. The prioritisation of the recommended action is the particularly valuable part of the audit. A good audit report therefore contains, in addition to the details of the findings and their evaluation as ok, critical or uncritical, a prioritisation of the measures and, if possible, a detailed explanation of how the measures are to be implemented.
Output of the SEO Audit
You will receive a comprehensive analysis of your websites according to the criteria defined in chapter 6.2. In addition to the actual audit report, you will also receive lists with the search results and URLs where there is a need for improvement, so that you can work through these lists according to the prioritisation.
When you receive thel lists with the exact URL details of pages on which measures are to be taken, your marketing team can work through them together with your IT according to priority. After a year, it is advisable to have another SEO audit so that you can see in which areas you have finally improved.
Search engine optimisation is a marathon task that requires continuous engagement with the topic. You must always plan a certain contingent of resources for this from now on.
How to find a good SEO agency
After you have made the decisions from the previous chapter, you are well prepared to find the right agency for you. If you work in a company, there may be guidelines from central offices on which agencies to work with, or at least there may be experience in other limited companies or departments. Ask here first. Otherwise, look for two or three agencies on the internet that are active locally in your area or that catch your eye for other reasons and ask for offers. Conduct preliminary interviews and then choose the agency that suits you best.
Characteristics of a good SEO agency are:
- Ability to listen carefully and respond to your needs.
- Workshops on other topics might be advised but should not be aggressively sold. Especially not before the results of the SEO audit are there. You can take that up at a later date.
- Extensive know-how on search engine optimisation for B2B
- Implementation of the SEO audit is possible without long onboardings and kickoffs, as the agency knows what to do.
Armed with the list above on the SEO audits content, you can pitch among 3-4 agencies that seem suitable to you and rate them according to their knowledge, behaviour and costs. Ask a sample Audit report and counter check ist with your list.
For further information on SEO optimization please have a look at this article on SEO.