As the lead SEO strategist at New Breed, I've noticed that most clients have at least an idea of what shape their website's SEO is in. Besides that, they also know where they rank for certain keywords. But the rankings are often different than what the client expects — mostly because of the failure to use an incognito browser session to search. (If you search in your regular browser for a site you've been to before, it's likely going to rank near the top of the results page.)
When I learn that some of the client's thoughts about their SEO success are misguided, I suggest an audit. Before we can make any improvements, we need to understand the baseline. If you haven’t had an SEO audit completed on your site recently — or ever — I highly recommend it.
An SEO audit is an inspection of the visibility and potential of your website’s search engine performance. It provides you with a few different things:
- An overview of your current search engine performance detailing your strengths, weaknesses and competitive gaps
- Recommendations on how to move forward to capitalize on your strengths, work towards updating your weaknesses and closing the gap on your competitors
- A to-do list of next steps for 30, 60 and 90 days that will help you build upon your strengths, weaknesses and competitive gaps
Now that you understand the importance of an SEO audit, let's dig into the aspects for why you should regularly complete one.
There are a few primary reasons you should complete an SEO audit. Most important (as it so often is) is that you want to maintain a positive user experience for your site visitors. You want them interacting with your site in a way that convinces them your company is a person they should invest time and money into; clicking on a broken link won't give them that confidence.
The user behavior metrics associated with your site also have an impact on your search results. The longer your visitors stay on your site, and the more often they navigate to more than one page, and the longer they stay, the more likely you are to rank against your competitors on search engines.
There are hundreds of reasons why you should complete an SEO audit, but it really boils down to maintaining a error-free, search-friendly site for your visitors.
How often should you complete an SEO audit? The answer depends on a few things. I recommend doing it twice a year, but if you don’t have the capacity to complete that, then once a year is a good option. If you have a team that manages your SEO, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to complete an audit every quarter. That will help drive your team's action items for the next quarter, as well.
It is also important to complete an SEO audit before a new major project such as a rebranding, new product/service offering, website redesign or launch, etc. If you’re expecting a large number of new visitors coming to your site, then make sure it can handle these new interactions.
To determine where you should find information for your audit depends on the level of SEO competency available on your team. If you have a full team, you’ll most likely have an SEO software (such as Moz, SemRush or Ahref) to help you crawl your website and find these errors. If not, you can use a variety of free tools such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Screaming Frog. You can accomplish a lot with just those three tools, but if you are making SEO a priority for your marketing team, I would recommend looking into some basic software to help you maintain your keyword positions and understand the health of your site.
You should, of course, complete an audit on your own site, but it wouldn’t hurt to look into your competitors' sites, too. Obviously you can’t get access to their Analytics or their internal information, but there are some some ways you can still research your competitors' SEO. HubSpot details some of the easy ones in this blog post.
The most important thing to remember is that if you identify some things your competitors are doing that you want to replicate, don't. You can't beat them by doing the same thing they're doing. Instead, look into some ways you can improve what they’re doing or find a better way to achieve the same result. Remember, don’t beat your competitors, outlast them.
Finally, how do you complete an SEO audit? I detailed 7 steps to implementing an SEO audit in this blog post. Go check it out, and make sure you audit your site regularly to maintain a positive user experience.