More and more savvy companies are undertaking search engine optimization (SEO) site audits to assess the current search-effectiveness of a site, what needs to be done to improve it, and to track a site’s performance over time. I’ve been recommending website audits for years—after all, the accounting department has an auditor, and so should the search marketing group. Here is how an SEO audit can become one of your best SEO investments.
If you’re just getting started in search engine optimization: An SEO audit can give you a “state of SEO” that will indicate if you are you OK or if you’re in deep doo-doo. A website audit from can reveal unknowns such as cloaking that was implemented years ago (and forgotten about) or tactics that weren’t implemented for SEO reasons, but nonetheless could get you into trouble with the search engines. An audit can also tell you what’s working and shouldn’t be changed, as well as what more you can do to rank higher in search engines.
If you’re considering outsourcing SEO, or bringing it in-house: Results of a search engine optimization audit can also help aid in the decision to outsource SEO or bring it in-house. If the results indicate you have a huge mess on your hands, you’ll probably need someone in-house to work with IT on all of the changes needed. However, if your IT gets the changes and is willing to incorporate them into upcoming releases, an external SEO adviser/mentor may be all you need.
If you’re unhappy with the current state of your website: If you aren’t happy with how your website is performing in the search engine results today, consider an SEO site audit to identify why you aren’t ranking and give very pinpointed advice on what you need to do to boost your positions in the search engines.
If you’ve been doing search engine optimization for a while: Even if you’ve been doing SEO for a while, a website audit will give you a fresh perspective on what more you could be doing. The reality is that you don’t know what you don’t know, and an external SEO auditor will come in with a different knowledge set and open your eyes to new opportunities. At the very least, an SEO audit will confirm that you’re executing SEO strategies to their fullest potential (though I have yet to find this to be the case).
If you can’t afford an SEO superstar: Not all companies can afford to hire a Michael Jordan of SEO. Instead, you can engage a more experienced SEO to conduct an SEO audit to identify what needs changed and prioritize the recommendations based on opportunities. Then you could hire someone less expensive to execute the recommended tactics.
If you want confirmation that your SEO recommendations are on the right track: Some SEO programs struggle to get the confidence of management and IT. One great tactic is to get a third party to confirm that you know what you’re talking about by engaging someone more experienced to do a thorough SEO site audit. It will confirm what should be on your SEO roadmap and what should not be, and add strategies that you probably haven’t considered.
If you want independent confirmation about the issues you’ve identified, and get buy-in when others are unwilling to make difficult changes: If you are responsible for SEO at your company, consider using a search engine optimization audit to confirm that what you have been suggesting is the right approach and you do know what you’re talking about.
If you are struggling to get buy-in for the more difficult SEO changes you have recommended, a site audit can be part of your strategy to get internal buy-in. It’s amazing how people respond to a consultant. As frustrating as this is, you can use a website audit to get SEO changes moving through the system.
If you want to measure your ongoing progress: During SMX West’s session Industrial Strength SEO, site audits were identified as a strong part of the in-house strategies of About.com, New York Times, and Yahoo! Inc. Some progressive companies have monthly website audits in place, and a few members of the audience raised their hand to confirm this reality. Monthly is a bit much for most companies to pull off, but fortunately even a quarterly, semi-annual, or yearly SEO audit can still give management great insight into how your site is progressing and what is—or isn’t—happening over time.
If a search engine optimization site audit isn’t on your roadmap for 2008, I highly encourage you to consider one, regardless of whether you work at a large or small company. At the very least, remember to budget it for 2009. It will help your SEO program, open your eyes to new ideas, and confirm to IT and your management what you should be doing.
Jessica Bowman is an SEO expert for hire to do an SEO site audits, SEO training and build a rock solid SEO program. Jessica is international speaker, industry columnist, and kicks butt at the board game Connect Four. The In House column appears on Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.