SEO audits are an essential part of expert-client cooperation, so it’s crucial to get that part right. Audits are the source of information about the problems with websites and potential fixes. What are the most important data to include? How to present it to clients and what are the best tools to use? Find answers in our report!
Table of contents:
- The Most Important Thing to Remember When Doing SEO Audit According to SEO Specialists
- The Most Important Data to Include in the SEO Audit
- SEO Audits for International Websites
- Things that Clients Find the Most Important in the SEO Audits
- How Long Does it Take to Implement an Audit?
- SEO Audits Best Practices from SEO Specialists
SEO audit is the first step on the road to improving your clients’ websites and helping them grow their businesses. That’s why it’s so important to do it right and establish a good relationship with your clients.
So, what exactly should an audit include to satisfy your client?
- What’s the best way to present it?
- Which tools are the most helpful?
- How long does it usually take to complete an audit?
- How to approach international websites?
- How long does it take to implement all the necessary fixes?
We decided to ask SEO specialists about their experience in this matter and perform a survey to expand our knowledge.
With the help of 50 specialists who took part in our research, we prepared a comprehensive report on the best ways to do SEO audits.
The Most Important Thing to Remember When Doing SEO Audit According to SEO Specialists
Specialists agree that an SEO audit should not be just a list of technical gibberish. That’s not really helpful for clients who don’t have the technical knowledge and frankly don’t really care about it.
Instead, try to find the answers to the client’s questions about the state of their business and present them in an easily-understandable way. The audit should be a guide on the issues and ways to improve the client’s website.
Let’s see what exactly experts think about what is important in SEO audits:
An SEO audit is, so to speak, a blueprint of the path that is needed to achieve the client’s business goals. I must emphasize this: the client’s goals are the most important. Of course, all the technical elements, analysis, etc. are also important in the SEO process, but the audit must show that we understand the industry and go beyond the pattern of ready-made and established solutions.
The audit itself isn’t everything – it’s important that the client understands the benefit of implementing the changes. The client comes to us as specialists but often does not understand our language. That’s why it’s worth explaining how implementing such an audit will realistically affect the business.
I think the most important goal of a site audit is to assess its technical health and on-page experience. Many SEOs will simply generate a technical audit using one of the many SEO tools out there that list technical issues. Rarely does a client understand this technical SEO language.
A blank-check audit is never very valuable. What’s important is a question that the audit seeks to answer. That might be, “why has my traffic gone down?” or “where am I missing opportunities?” but there needs to be a question the audit is answering.
The most important part of an audit is the initial question of “what issue is the client having, or goal they want to achieve” and then working backwards through the problem. Listening to the client is something most SEOs forget to do as they’re too busy with their routine process.
It needs to be more than a PDF of the results from a tool like Moz or Ahrefs. This is fine for SEOs, but it’s just noise for a client. It can also come off wrong. You might think you’re helping a client, but giving them a list of everything they’re doing wrong can be frustrating and insulting.
You need to take the time to explain where the priorities are and what will happen after we make changes. Think in business terms and focus on ROI. Point out key actions that will move the needle.
The Right Time to Conduct an SEO Audit
How often should you perform an SEO audit?
At the beginning of the collaboration, that’s obvious. But is it the only time?
Specialists who took part in our research think that regularity is the key. Audits should be performed not only every couple of months but also after every major change on the website.
Check out the survey’s results:
Usually, specialists perform SEO audits every 3 months. Since audits are the best way to make sure that everything goes smoothly and that there’re no new problems on the website they should be done regularly.
The Most Important Data to Include in the SEO Audit
The data you include in your SEO audit is a base that you will be working on. It should include information about all the issues on the website and possible fixes. The more historic data you collect and present, the easier it will be to explain to your clients what you need to work on and show your progress in the future.
If you do this right, your job will be easier and your client happier!
The action plan that results from conducting an audit should include not only technical elements to be implemented on the site but also elements regarding content, information architecture, and link building process. The audit should include information on the initial state of the site – this way, both the client and the SEO expert will be able to track whether the actions are bringing the expected results.
I’d like to get as much historical data (traffic, conversions/leads, etc) as possible. This helps me identify potential dates when problems might have happened.
We don’t provide charts and graphics, we provide actionable bullet points (usually 2-3 pages) listed with priority items. The audits are more focused on technical improvements & keyword/content improvements usually.
When completing an SEO audit there are a number of datasets that we will look at. If we’re completing an audit for a prospective client, then we will look at their current SEO statistics and see how this is performing.
We look at the history of that client’s SEO along with keywords and compare them to competitors in their markets. This will give both them and us an idea of where they are performing well and what needs improvement. We may also look at their PPC campaign, if they have one, to see how the money they are spending on ads could be spent more effectively.
In an SEO audit, I would be sure to include data that put a performance in context with top competitors so the client knows what the goal is. Ranking data is important, as well as indexed pages, internal and external backlinks, etc.
Some of the experts send us a detailed list of all the elements they include in their audits. So, if you’re looking for in-depth information about what to include in your audits, this is something for you:
When performing an SEO audit, we include the following elements:
1. A detailed analysis of a website’s technical aspects: How does it stack up against competitors in terms of loading speed? How does it perform on mobile devices? Does it have any front-end or back-end issues that could be fixed?
2. A detailed analysis of the site’s content: Does it address all of the relevant keywords? Are there any sections that could be improved upon or removed altogether? Is the tone of the content consistent with what customers would expect from this particular brand or industry?
3. An analysis of current link building efforts: Are they effective at generating relevant links to this particular site or business? Are they being used properly (i.e., not spamming)? Are there any weak points that need to be addressed?
4. An analysis of current social media engagement efforts: Are they effective at generating quality leads for this business? What can we do to improve them even further?
I divide my audits into 5 parts:
1. Technical checkups – indexation status, performance, https, core web vitals, mobile friendliness
2. SEO Off-Page – DA status and web presence check-up, toxic backlinking check-up, social network check-up, main competitors SEO Off-page status
3. SEO On Page – full crawling of the website, 4XX and 5XX errors, titles, meta descriptions, headings, URLs, alt texts, semantic SEO
4. Structure – keyword research, competitor analysis, keyword mapping)
5. To-do list summarizing the audit and setting up priorities
The Best Tools to Perform an SEO Audit
There are certain tools that help with completing SEO audits quickly and effectively. Usually to benefit from their full potential we need access to the paid version. Since there are so many tools available on the market the choice is not easy. And we don’t want to make the wrong one, especially since we have to pay for it.
That’s why we collected data from experts about the most-used SEO auditing tools:
As you can see Ahrefs is the most popular tool among SEO experts. Right behind it, there are free Google tools – Google Search Console and Analytics. Equally popular are Screaming Frog and Page Speed Insight and SEMrush is right behind them.
Bear in mind that experts usually use more than one tool. In our survey experts could choose more than one tool and most of them chose at least 5 that are the most helpful for them.
Wojciech, our SEO specialist uses most of them while performing audits, so he shared what exactly is the purpose of each of them:
I rely on 4 data sources:
1. Google Search Console – data about traffic and pageviews on Google, as well as indexing errors and search result improvements
2. Screaming Frog – full site crawl, which allows assessing the technical status of the analyzed domain, whether something Google can’t access and it should and vice versa
3. Ahrefs / Moz / Majestic SEO – external tools for link profile analysis
4. Specialized external tools – smaller tools for checking specific elements, e.g. PSI for speed and Core Web Vitals, httpstatus.io for verification of redirects
How Much Time Does it Take to Perform an SEO Audit?
SEO audit might be a time-consuming process so we asked specialists how long it usually takes them to complete it.
These are the results of our survey:
Most specialists take between 1-3 days to complete an SEO audit. This will obviously depend on the size of a website and the scale of potential problems.
Do Experts Use Tool-Based Automatic Audits?
We were curious whether tools to create automatic audits are popular among experts.
63% of specialists who took part in our research does not use any kind of tools to generate automatic audits. But, almost 40% of experts have some experience with automatically-generated SEO audits.
Are those audits inherently bad?
Not exactly They can save you some time by collecting all the necessary data as long as you verify them next. Nothing can replace experts’ knowledge and experience. A specialist has to check and revise them to make sure everything is in the right place and makes sense.
Tools that are used to automatically-generate audits might send false signals about data (even GSC can be wrong sometimes!). So, it’s best not to rely on them to create a valuable audit and only use them to speed up a process a little bit.
SEO Audits for International Websites
International SEO is not much different than regular SEO. It includes the same elements – technical SEO, on-page, and off-page SEO. But, a couple of things need to be taken into account with an international website like hreflangs and proper domain structure.
All of this needs to be present in the SEO audits for your international clients.
5 things are absolutely key for international sites:
1. Whether there are separate language versions for key markets
2. How the language versions are implemented (national domain, subdomain, language directory) – whether it is optimal for a specific industry and market
3. Whether there is no geolocalization
4. Whether there are no dynamic translations
5. Whether there are correctly implemented hreflangs
For international websites, include in your audit the same things as usual, but also look to make sure they’re using hreflang attributes appropriately, and that they’ve got their pages translated into languages they need to be in. You’ll mostly be looking to make sure their content is showing to the audiences it’s intended for.
You’ll need to make sure that your website is accessible from all of the countries that you’re targeting. This includes making sure that your website’s DNS settings are configured correctly. You’ll want to make sure that your website is properly optimized for the different search engines that are popular in each country. This includes things like making sure your titles and descriptions are translated correctly, and that your website’s content is keyword rich.
Outside of technical setups like country codes in URLs and hreflang attributes, you need to pay really close attention to which countries clients have a presence in. Every country is a potentially different market.
You must ensure you understand the goals for each of those markets. You don’t want to take a blanket overview because you’ll potentially do well in one or two countries but fail in others.
International clients require individualization of strategies. Often they do not focus so much on the technical elements, but more on the possibilities and opportunities to develop their own business. The audit and the elements it will identify are intended to help clients achieve this goal.
The thing that makes international SEO different is the use of hreflang. It is complex and easy to implement incorrectly. One thing I have commonly seen is blog posts on one language version of the site such as /en-gb/ with internal links to a page on a different language version of the site.
This is very confusing both for users and bots. So to summarise incorrectly linking between hreflang versions is something I would pay close attention to as it is a common mistake that can really slow down organic growth.
The most important thing to pay attention to when doing SEO audits for international websites is whether or not the site has been optimized for its target audience.
If you want your international website to succeed, it’s important that you make sure it’s optimized for the local audience. This can be done by making sure that all of the content on the site is translated into the native language of your target country and that it includes local keywords.
Things that Clients Find the Most Important in the SEO Audits
Things that SEO specialists find important and necessary to include in the SEO audits are not always the same things that bring value to the clients.
Too much information might discourage clients from reading the audit thoroughly but too little information is not going to show them the actual result of an audit and the scope of work that needs to be done. Pay attention to your clients’ needs and only include the information they care about.
What kind of information exactly?
This will depend on the client, the SEO knowledge they possess, and the time they can spend on reading the audit. We asked specialists about their experience in this matter and they agree that the most important thing is to deliver an actionable plan with an explanation of what will be the outcome.
A tangible action plan. Just showing errors or things to improve doesn’t bring much value to the client – that’s what a lot of tools can do. The key is a plan to improve these errors. So an audit performed by a specialist should include specific shuffles to implement, prioritizing them.
I think it’s critical for clients to walk away with an understanding of what’s working well. With something like an audit, you want clients to feel good about some part of the effort, time, & money they’ve put toward a project.
I find it equally important for clients to have a clear understanding of what opportunities exist and how they should prioritize them. I’ve seen business owners fail to implement changes because they weren’t told what should be tackled & in what order.
Your client has seen audits before, so make sure yours is clear and actionable. If they don’t know why your recommendations will help and what the end goal is, yours will be just another in a series of audits they look at once and forget.
In my experience, clients like simple, actionable steps they can take. I usually put them in order from biggest impact to less impact. This way they have a checklist of actions to take.
Technical SEO is probably the biggest weakness for most clients. A review of Google Analytics and Behaviors to see how their clients interact with the site can shed a lot of light on issues. The most important item in an audit is to keep it actionable. Clients don’t need a 70+ Page Audit Report, they need action items, with further detailed explanations after the fact.
Our clients really seem to appreciate honesty and clarity. In regard to statistics, different clients like to see different sets of data. Some are driven by their sales statistics, others by the traffic to their website or there are others who want to rank for particular words or phrases. We like to be all-inclusive as sometimes what clients want to see, shifts. This is something that the team at Sherbet Donkey Media consistently monitors so that we can deliver results that clients will be overjoyed with.
The most important thing in the SEO audit for clients is that you’re honest with them. Be upfront about any areas that need improvement, and be clear about what you can do to help them improve their ranking.
An SEO audit should be an actionable plan. Without that, it’s simply another spreadsheet with a list of problems the client should fix. And that feels more like homework than a solution. So, we map out actions to every page and then prioritize updates with clients. This way, they have a clear path to success.
SEO Audit Format
What’s the best way to present all this data to your clients?
This might also depend on individual preferences. Some people prefer text format and some like the good old Excel spreadsheet.
Among SEO specialists the most popular format they use to present data to their clients is spreadsheet and PDF form. Some of them prefer more direct contact and schedule a meeting or a call.
Usually, specialists use more than one format to make sure clients understand collected data and a plan of action.
When I provide an SEO audit to clients, I deliver a spreadsheet with separate tabs for each technical issue. I also include a written report that makes sense of the technical data from the spreadsheet. This report contains a summary of findings and a list of recommendations that can serve as an SEO strategy moving forward.
How Long Does it Take to Implement an Audit?
The last step after conducting the SEO audit is implementing all the changes and fixes that you pointed out in it. Depending on the scale of the problem, this might be a quick and easy task or a time-consuming complicated one.
Usually, it takes between 1-3 months but according to SEO experts, it’s a very individual thing. Big websites with loads of problems will take more time than a site that needs just a few fixes.
SEO Audits Best Practices from SEO Specialists
SEO specialists should always put their clients’ needs first.
When it comes to SEO audits the most important thing to remember is to include only the information important for clients and an actionable plan they can follow step-by-step.
All experts agreed that technical jargon won’t impress clients so it’s better to leave it to yourself and other specialists. Instead, it’s best to show your clients the problems and how to fix them so they know what exactly needs to be done, why, and how to assess your work.