A website audit is essential if you want to plan an effective SEO campaign. Such audits can be found on the offer of various agencies that deal with SEO activities on a daily basis. Some of the audits are free of charge and conducted before the official start of cooperation while others are part of the activities included in the contract. So what is the difference between an audit done before the contract is signed and an audit done after signing it?
A website audit – what is it?
At the beginning of each comparative analysis, it’s worth mentioning the methodology and some of the basic concepts. In order to answer the question in the title of the article, first we need to get through other questions and answers concerning audits.
However, let’s start with a theoretical background:
A website audit is a thorough analysis of the website which takes into account various parameters that affect SEO, meaning the position of the website in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
To put it simply, it indicates what is good on a given website and what needs to be altered. A website audit is provided as part of the services offered by agencies and its aim is to prepare some recommendations, comments and advice on how to create, edit or expand a website in a way compliant with SEO with respect to both Google robots and users. The audit also constitutes a list of activities that the agency intends to undertake within the framework of cooperation. A website audit is most commonly encountered as a text file with a table of contents, images and footnotes – it’s similar to a book, which, depending on the level of advancement, can have from a few to several pages.
Why to do a website audit?
A website audit is performed due to several reasons and circumstances. It can be done after launching a new website or after significantly updating the existing one. An audit is also carried out at the moment you start cooperation with an agency – it doesn’t matter whether it’s the first cooperation or whether you’ve only changed the agency. As we’ve already mention, the aim of doing a website audit is to identify any errors on the website and to assess the status of the SEO process. During a website audit, all elements important in terms of the SEO process such as meta-data (titles and descriptions of subpages), alternative graphics descriptions, proper marking of text elements, construction of URLs and internal linking are analyzed.
The value of the website and the domain where it’s located, as well as the value of domains with the backlinks to the analyzed website is also analyzed. Apart from that, a website audit includes guidelines for people like webmasters who create the website and a list of tasks that either will be completed or have already been implemented by the agency.
When it comes to audits conducted before signing the contract, these are only guidelines and potential activities that can be done by the agency in order to improve SEO of the website. On the other hand, if a website audit is performed after signing the contract, it includes activities that either have been already implemented or that the agency commits itself to do.
If you want to see how Delante performs a website audit go to: SEO audit.
What tools are used to perform a website audit?
There are several tools that are widely used by SEO specialists in order to prepare a website audit. This list comprises both free and easily accessible tools as well as the ones that require a subscription.
Frequently used tools include those offered by Google, such as Google Search Console, Google Analytics or Google Page Speed Insights. They allow to monitor operation of the website and its visibility in the search results. However, it’s possible to see this data only after obtaining access from the owner of the website, which usually happens only after signing the contract.
Among other tools used by agencies and specialists who perform website audits we can distinguish Screaming Frog, Semrush, Ahrefs, Woorank, GTMetrix or Siteliner. The case is slightly different when it comes to automated audits.
Do automated audits generate measurable results?
When you type an “SEO audit” phrase in the search engine, you’ll be shown a number of offers of automated website audits. In this case, the factors strongly influencing SEO such as speed, page weight and meta data are analyzed.
Many websites provide results just after a few seconds. Moreover, analyzers are also free. Therefore, it can be very tempting to think that there is no need to hire a professional agency that will perform a thorough website analysis and instead to rely solely on a document obtained online. Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind that such an audit, as the name itself suggests, is automated and doesn’t provide any analytical approach. There is also no possibility that a specialist performing the audit will notice any external factors. Automated audits lack comments or explanations concerning the results (technology is often temperamental and it may turn out that a given audit was erroneous). It also often happens that only the homepage is analyzed and there isn’t any focus on particular subpages or product and category pages which are equally important in the SEO process.
Can you perform a website audit on your own?
We’ve mentioned above that part of the tools used by professional SEO agencies are free and easily accessible. So maybe you can perform a website audit on your own? Of course, an audit can be done on the basis of your knowledge and various sources such as guides available on the Internet. If you know at least a little about SEO and what happens during the SEO process, you’ll be able to correctly read and interpret the results. Moreover, this may turn out to be more beneficial for you than using an automated website audit. Nevertheless, neither of them will be as accurate as a website audit performed by a professional SEO agency.
Is the audit performed before signing the contract different from the one done after signing it?
Many SEO agencies take advantage of different types of special offers to encourage potential clients to choose their company. They declare a UX analysis (User Experience), examine the domain of the website or perform a preliminary analysis of the home page in order to detect any potential errors and irregularities that can result in poor visibility of the website in the search results. Some of the agencies perform either a more general or more detailed audit of the website before signing the contract. Some of them use automated software tools similar to those accessible for free on various websites. Audits performed by specialists are a different kettle of fish – they include a thorough analysis of the meta-data, page loading time, internal linking, the size of the graphics and the weight of the entire website. They may also provide explanations, comments and a list of activities that the agency will undertake. It sounds quite like an audit performed after signing the contract, doesn’t it?
It may be stated that audits performed before signing the contract are a kind of sales tools that aim to inspire confidence in the company and to encourage potential clients, who were shown the wide range of possibilities offered by the company and a number of irregularities on the website, to start cooperation with this particular company. Audits done before signing the contract are very often automated and much less detailed than the ones performed after officially starting cooperation with a given agency.
A website audit performed before signing the contract is usually a short analysis of the website which makes it easier to evaluate its potential and the amount of work needed to achieve the desirable results. It should be complemented by a detailed website audit done after signing the contract.
The take-home message
Undoubtedly, the analysis of audits performed by professional SEO agencies is much more reliable and valuable than the results of automated website audits. And what about the question in the title of the article? Is it better to choose an agency that performs an audit before signing the contract or the one that has already become familiar with the specificity of your company or website and will conduct an analysis concerning activities that can be performed within the duration of the contract? Both audits are valuable and give measurable results, however, the first one can be less detailed. Moreover, an SEO agency that performs a website audit before starting cooperation should perform it once again after signing the contract and then make a thorough analysis.