SEO Audits: Do they Really Add Value to Your Business?
You know how every year the competition to rank higher in search engines gets tougher and tougher? You might have considered purchasing or been offered SEO Audit services. But what is the real value of a SEO Audit? Let’s find out together!
If you are familiar with what SEO is, skip the intro, but if not, read on, as you need a basic understanding of SEO for the topic we are about to discuss.
Introduction to SEO
While the acronym SEO meaning Search Engine Optimisation first appeared in 1997, the prominence of optimising websites to perform better in search engines has reached new heights every year ever since. As website owners sought to increase their rankings and attract more visitors, a new industry grew to facilitate these efforts. And as agencies and solopreneurs started to offer SEO services, auditing tools to make their lives easier started to evolve as well.
SEO can be divided to off-page and on-page SEO. While the first one focuses on aspects outside the given website, for example building links pointing back from other domains, the latter is concerned with the content, structure and technical details of the given website. For each of these topics, there is a list of recommendations and best practices a website should adhere to – even though many of these guidelines change over time and what was true a few years or months ago may no longer be relevant today.
On the other hand, many of these “rules” and recommendations are quite simple to follow. For instance, you should always give relevant ALT text to your images, avoid broken links which point to missing/non-existing pages, and use URLs that are indicative of the content. These are just a few examples, but trust us, the list is really long.
Now, you might think that checking all those potential SEO issues is a really complicated and expensive process that requires a lot of expertise. The good news is that many of these things can be audited automatically. Technical SEO recommendations are almost always easy to check by software, but many content SEO best practices can also be verified with tools of more or less sophistication.
How difficult is it to produce a SEO Audit?
As of today there are countless tools and services available to audit websites in order to find issues or improvement potential based on their adherence to standards, recommendations and best practices. Some are available as downloadable software, some as online services, but what is common among most of them is that they can automatically run hundreds of such checks against each page of a website. Indeed the results can be collected into a list of issues.
What the industry doesn’t want you to know is that SEO audits are cheap and easy to generate automatically without any expertise.
While there might have been a time in the faraway past when SEO experts did checks and compiled their audit reports manually spending countless hours, it was so long ago that it might have only been a dream, or nightmare for that matter. What mankind can automate usually ends up being automated, especially in IT, so for sure no one in their right mind has done those checks manually for a very long time. The tools require only a few clicks of setup to produce reports with results in 10s to 100s of issue categories and thousands to millions of found issues for larger sites.
Sure, most of these tools are targeted at professionals and have a licence or subscription fee, but really no special skills or effort is required to generate SEO audit reports. And the best thing is that the same methodology is applicable to almost all websites.
Profiting from Misleading Customers
Unfortunately, there are many companies out there that take advantage of this fact and sell “SEO audit reports” to unsuspecting customers at exorbitant prices. Many times we have seen website owners approaching us to fix issues on their websites just to find out that they have purchased a (SEO) audit from a provider and ended up receiving a spreadsheet listing thousands of issues. Unbeknownst to them, the list is basically the output of commercially available tools. Some of those have received additional formatting, maybe the provider added their logo, or if they really wanted to go the extra mile the file could include a somewhat customised cover page with a summary of the report findings.
Indeed we are not saying that SEO expertise can be replaced. Not at all. Optimising content and link building are two key importance tasks that are impossible to effectively automate. Some content aspects can be checked by algorithms. Certainly this field will see a large transformation in the near future with the proliferation of highly capable language models (AI), but as of today these are factors that require the attention and intuition of an expert.
However, we are not happy to see customers who think they have acquired a high value artefact when they purchased these reports at many times the price point it takes to generate them. Business owners are not supposed to be experts in SEO or the tools available on the market. So it is always going to be easy to present these SEO audits to many as a valuable investment – and sell at an unfair price point.
There is also no surprise to see many of these SEO audit providers not even offer services to fix the found issues. With such a high margin operation any actual work to be done on the website would significantly lower their profitability. Not to mention that generating the reports is virtually risk free, while fixing the issues can be a long tedious process with technical risks involved.
The Overpriced SEO Audit Report That Doesn’t Add Value
We believe many business owners would feel disappointed if they learnt that the report they have purchased at a hefty price can be generated automatically for a few dollars per site. But what is really sad is that these reports are not valuable for the business. They do not improve their operation, and many times they are not even actionable. After receiving the report they may still need to look for another provider who can actually fix the issues.
So you may ask why we offer a Web Design Audit service if we have such a critical opinion about SEO audits?
We believe in providing value-based services. On one hand we know that the SEO audit reports do not worth much on their own without fixing the issues, but there is even one more catch: Fixing the SEO issues on a website is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for a well performing website.
It is typical to see that the fixing thousands of SEO issues results in little to no noticeable growth in traffic or conversion.
This may very well be another reason it is much more common to just sell the reports with the implied promise of metrics improving once they are fixed compared to also offering service to fix those issues. This way the report provider is long gone by the time the website owner faces the dire reality of lack of results. And the website owner may very well be more likely to blame whoever made the actual fixes to the site anyway.
Unlocking Your Website’s Full Potential
As you might have noticed, we offer a Web Design Audit service. This indeed includes auditing your website for the automatically detectable SEO issues. However we not only want your website to be able to stand up to the start line. It is not enough!
You need a comprehensive audit solution that gives you an actionable improvement plan that can bring real results. Sure, it can take much longer and requires lots of effort. However, we stand fully behind our suggestions: Once the Web Design Audit is done, we are here to work on fixing the issues, so you don’t have to look for another service provider if you don’t want to.
Are you asking what our Web Design Audit service covers beyond the standard SEO Auditing?
If we would need to put it into one sentence: We actually take a look at your website!
In fact we take several deep look as we check several aspects beyond technical SEO, such as:
- Looking for opportunities to increase engagement.
- Identifying inconsistencies and errors in structure and behaviour that hinder user experience.
- In-depth technical analysis of website speed issues that affect user engagement and search rankings.
- …and more.
In the second part of this series we’ll introduce you to our unique approach while we assess the importance of non-typical aspects and actual manual auditing. As a value based business we strive to offer insights even if you are not yet ready to put your website under the microscope, so stay tuned!
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