28th Sep 2016
I still only use my LinkedIn account on occasion. While I find it fascinating to see which of my business contacts know each other (6 degrees eat your heart out), I normally try to give more than I take with LinkedIn.
One question that caught my interest a few weeks back was somebody asking “How much would you pay for a professional Search Engine Optimisation audit of your website?”.
The answers were incredibly varied, with some people saying absolutely nothing, others saying it’s fine just to use automated SEO Tools and some suggesting writing a blank cheque was the way to go.
Working in the search field, I felt obliged to chime in on answers. In a nutshell, I believe the answer is very much similar to hiring an accountant:
An SEO Audit is worth what it will save you. No more, no less.
Skimping on an SEO Audit may mean the effort you’re putting into link building may not be being used effectively, or you have to go through various iterations of your site as you slowly pick up on optimisation barriers down the line.
The long answer was:
“As with many things, you certainly get what you pay for with SEO audits. You have rightly pointed out that there are vast limitations to “SEO Tools” which will automate the process, human intelligence is absolutely required to provide a useful audit.
Working at a search agency, I can tell you that we use a mix: We have developed our own bespoke tools for finding out the basics of a website, for instance: Looking for duplicate pages, checking for optimised title tags, h1s, h2s, image navigation, redirects etc. However, this is only part of the story.
The complexity of an audit, I would suggest should not be looked at by the number of pages on a website. You’ll find in most cases, websites only have maybe 5-10 different templates for pages, you may have a home page, a category level page, a product level page and various basket/sign up/policy pages. For this reason, I would say it may be more efficient to look at the SEO of these templates, as they will have common elements.
How much do we charge for audits then? It does depend on the complexity of the site. If you’re dealing with a site that dynamically generates URLs and page content, it can be a lot trickier than a simple site.
It will also depend on how many problems there are with a site. If a site is mostly search engine friendly, we’ll usually make some suggestions for free, however if the site does require a serious overhaul – this is going to be an investment for the client.
I would argue that the people that say they would pay “nothing” for an SEO audit, may be the same people that end up redesigning/structuring their site several times as various SEO issues crop up, which will turn out to be a much more expensive process than having an audit completed properly in the first instance.
Hiring an SEO is a bit like hiring an accountant, ask yourself the question, how much can they save/make me vs. cost.
As a guideline, I would look for the following things in an SEO audit:
1) Keyphrase strategy – Is there a definite plan for selecting high performing/high traffic key phrases and a matching content strategy to provide pages to rank for these terms?
2) A priority overview of all barriers to SEO, how severe is the problem, what exactly is the problem and how do you overcome it?
3) Look at URL structure of site
4) Look at internal linking of site
5) Look at link equity flow on site
6) Look at optimised HTML elements: titles, h1s, h2s etc
7) Look at navigation / image / text based
8) Look for redirects / header issues
9) Look at server response times
10) Robots.txt / rel=nofollow usage
11) Check for canonicalisation issues
12) Check error pages
13) Indexed pages / dupes
14) Backlink profile
15) Compare all of above to competitors
That’s off the top of my head. Good luck! “