Keeping a dial on the SEO for your primary domain is a critical effort for your business. You want to bring organic visitors to your site — so you need to ensure you’re ranking well for your designated keywords, building links to your domain and committing to user experience best practices. One of the most effective ways to guarantee your site is up to par in each of these areas is by implementing an SEO audit.
What is an SEO audit? It’s an inspection of your site's visibility and its ability to rank. An effective SEO audit will provide you with the following:
- An overview of your current search engine performance, detailing your strengths, weaknesses and competitive gaps
- Recommendations on how to capitalize on your strengths, minimize your weaknesses, and close the gap on your competitors
- An actionable to-do list of next steps based on your strengths, weaknesses and competitive gaps
At New Breed, an SEO audit is a seven-step process that covers preparation, implementation and evaluation. It runs as follows:
- Set a goal
- Determine KPIs
- Collect data
- Compare to competitors
- Plan of attack
- Evaluate and adjust
Before conducting any sort of audit, you must make sure you have plentiful, accurate data available. I recommend using an SEO crawler such as Screaming Frog, Moz or SEMRush. These tools can give you enhanced insight. But if you’re only equipped with Google Analytics and Search Console, you can still complete an audit. I recommend using data from the trailing six months for the best results, though you can be successful with quarterly data, if necessary.
1. Set a Goal
Prior to taking any action, we need to determine why we are completing this audit. Your goals for this audit are going to shape the way it runs. For example, if you are completing this audit before your website redesign, then the recommendations will have to be followed during the new site build, as opposed to over a period of time after launch.
Identifying your goals will provide you with the insight and direction you need to ensure your audit is a success. Whether you are looking to redesign your site or to simply maintain tracking of your SEO highlights, start by defining your end goal, and work backward from there.
2. Determine KPIs
Once you determine your goal, it is important to align that goal with specific KPIs to use throughout your audit. These KPIs will be your “focus metrics” as you inspect your site’s SEO. The set of KPIs should outline how your goal is to be achieved. For example, if your goal is to bring more organic leads in to your website, a KPI to focus on would be the visit-to-lead conversion rate. Look into that metric and evaluate how it has been performing in the trailing six months. Then, look at the way that metric is impacted on your site. What are your top pages from search? Do they have a top-of-funnel form to fill out so you can capture a visitor’s information?
Each KPI is affected by certain aspects of your current site. Determine your KPIs and look into how they are affected by your site architecture and by typical user behavior. This will set you up for SEO audit success.
3. Collect Data
Now that you have your KPIs established, pop into your data sources, collect your data and analyze it against your revenue goal.
After this audit, you’ll want to direct your efforts toward filling the gaps between your SEO efforts and your revenue goal. For instance, if you know you need 600 visits per week in order to provide enough opportunities (at a defined win rate) per month, and you only have 300 visits a week right now, you’ll need to prioritize search ranking (for awareness content) in order to bring in that extra 300 per week.
Once you’ve found your gaps, you can begin to compare your current status to that of your competitors.
4. Compare to Competitors
Use the KPIs you’ve established and use data from your competitors to understand how they’re reaching those goals. This is where an SEO software comes in handy. Collecting this data can be tricky, but if you are using an SEO software, you can plug your competitors in and collect the data. Be wary — it is not 100 percent accurate, but it is good enough to allow you to make certain assumptions. Then compare it to your own data. Identify some of the ways your competitors are reaching the goals you want to reach, and jot those down as part of your recommendations. But don’t just copy your competitors! Look for areas where they’re innovating, and adapt the tactics for your own architecture.
5. Plan of Attack
You’ve collected all of your data, you’ve compared that data to your revenue goals and competitors, and now it's time to figure out how to optimize your current strategy to drive ROI.
Your plan of attack should be built within a 30, 60 or 90 day timeline. What are the things you need to start now so the changes you are determined to see will be ready come end of the plan? What tactics are low-hanging fruit, which definitely belong in the first 30 days? If you set a priority for each of your tasks, set the highest priority and most impactful tasks to be completed first, then align any future tasks with that schedule.
6. Implement the Plan
Now you have to follow that plan. Don’t drown in the details! It’s easy to forget the purpose of the audit, but all of the planning, goal setting and prioritization you worked through in steps 1 through 5 should help you avoid that. You know your purpose. Step 6 is purely execution.
Great job! You’ve completed your plan of action. Go ahead and crack a beer or open that bottle of wine. But don’t kick up your feet yet. We didn’t touch step 7.
You should be easily able to report on the changes you’ve made. Start tracking those KPIs and note if anything has changed. Are you making improvements? Is the dial moving in the right direction or is it stagnant? Based on your plan you should be able to identify if your changes are working correctly or not. If your KPIs aren’t moving in the direction you’d like them to be going, adjust your strategy slightly. Don’t make a hasty realignment of your current project, but look into ways you can do it differently that may lead to more success.
There’s no guarantee your strategy will set you on the right path to top-ranking results and huge increases in organic traffic. What you can do is make small edits and changes over time, with the overall goal of getting your SEO strategy to an improved state. There is no end-all, be-all SEO strategy. Test out a few, and see which works best for your audience and industry. You’re simply trying to create a foundation for the future; keep tracking what’s working, and keep reshaping your plan accordingly.