A website audit is an essential first step toward identifying the issues that may be causing your site to perform poorly in the organic results of search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing. You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you are. But before deciding who will conduct the website audit you should determine what your plans are for resolving whatever problems may be uncovered.
The information contained within many a website SEO audit is a confusing mix of technical jargon and a laundry list of problems with very little information that you, as the small business owner, can take action on. If the audit states the site is suffering from canonical URL issues, poor internal link structure, duplicate content problems, keyword cannibalization, etc., what does all of that mean to you? If you’re like most small business owners, it may as well be written in Chinese. Many SEOs create these audits specifically to result in your hiring them to resolve the issues for you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this practice, but it’s important that you understand that to be the case.
Let’s face it…not all small business owners are in a position to pay thousands of dollars to optimize their websites. Does that mean they should abandon all hope, throw their hands up in frustration and resign themselves to perpetually poor performance in the organic search results? Absolutely not. What it DOES mean is that where to spend marketing dollars and what to invest in SEO efforts is essential. If you’re among most small business owners, you don’t have a lot of free time, but you have more time to spend these days than money. For you, choosing the right SEO audit – one that will provide you with more than just a laundry list of problems – is very important.
What Will You Do After The SEO Audit – Have A Basic Plan
Have you stopped to think about what you intend to do with the information contained within the SEO audit? If you haven’t, don’t have an audit done – yet. There is a LOT more to consider when deciding who to hire to do your audit than price. Audits can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Before investing a dime of your small business marketing budget on a website audit, you need to have some idea what you intend to do with what you learn from it. If you spend $2,000 on an audit, how much of your budget will then be left to put toward actually fixing the site’s problems? If your answer is, “nothing”, you need to find a more affordable SEO audit.
Is your plan to hire the company that conducted the audit to resolve the issues? Do you intend to have the site’s original designer address the issues? Are you going to fix the problems yourself? Your goals, what you hope to learn and your future plans for resolving problems once they are identified are all important things to take into consideration BEFORE deciding who will audit your site. Not taking these things into consideration can cost you a LOT of time and money. The only thing worse than avoiding SEO audits is choosing the wrong one. If the audit doesn’t ultimately result in the necessary changes being made, it’s a complete waste of money.
Resolving On-Site SEO Issues – Understanding Your Options
You don’t HAVE to hire SEOs or SEO companies to improve your site’s organic SEO performance. If you have the flexibility within your marketing budget to contract a reputable SEO or hire an SEO professional to handle optimization for you in-house, that’s fantastic – and is obviously the optimal solution. I suggest you stop wasting your time reading this and do so immediately. That isn’t, however, a realistic option for many small business owners facing today’s economic challenges and shrinking marketing budgets.
The truth is that there are many on-site SEO tasks that can be tackled by designers, developers, or even by YOU – the small business website owner. While there are numerous things to consider in a comprehensive optimization effort, resolving basic on-site SEO issues is a huge step in the right direction toward improving your site’s search engine friendliness and organic SEO performance. That said, HUGE mistakes can be made if you or your designer aren’t careful or aren’t provided with the right information.
Let’s be clear: if you’re going to rely on whomever designed the site initially to resolve the issues, you should assume they know little to nothing about SEO. Why? If they knew much about building a search engine friendly site, they likely would have done so from the get-go and the site wouldn’t suffer from basic issues like unoptimized titles, poor META tag relevancy, lack of text navigation, etc.
That said, if you intend to rely on your designer or developer to resolve the issues, be prepared to tell them exactly what the issues are and provide them with information about how to go about fixing it. Many designers and developers claim to understand SEO, but more often than not this simply isn’t true. In this case, the usual “laundry list” SEO audits won’t cut the mustard.
Knowing the site doesn’t have an adequate internal link structure won’t be enough for the typical designer or developer to know what to do next. Telling them to fix the keyword cannibalization issues won’t be enough to ensure that it actually gets done. And if YOU don’t have a basic understanding of what keyword cannibalization is, you won’t know where to begin to check to see if the issues have been taken care of.
Not only will they (or you) need to be told what’s wrong, but – more importantly – what is involved in resolving those issues, some of which may be specific to an individual page and some of which may be site-wide issues that will need to be fixed on every page throughout the site. Unless the SEO audit helps create an understanding of not only what must be changed, but how and why it is important, someone who doesn’t already understand SEO will find it useless.
Website Audits Are A First Step – Not “THE” Solution
Think of a website audit as a diagnosis, not a solution to your website’s problems. Just like fatigue, fainting or a fever are indications to your doctor that something is amiss with your health, a site that performs poorly in an organic search is merely a symptom of the website’s underlying problems. An audit is a diagnostic tool. The treatment program, i.e. the overall SEO strategy, begins to take shape once the specific problems have been identified.
The right audit will help you better understand what aspects of the strategy you can carry out yourself and what is best tackled only by an SEO professional. Choosing the right SEO Audit – like choosing the right doctor – is an important first step toward reaching your goals. The most important thing to understand about any SEO effort is that it cannot be approached as a simple, one-time “project”. Successful SEO is an ongoing process. Websites that perform well in the organic search results are constantly monitored and changes continue to be made on an ongoing basis in order to maintain consistent, long-term success.
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