As an SEO agency owner, I spend a lot of time speaking with prospective clients. If you are in the industry, you probably hear the same questions I do on the first call.
How Long Will It Take?
How Much Will It Cost?
How Much Traffic Can I Expect?
How Many Leads Should I Expect?
These are mixed in alongside a handful of questions related to specifics about their site. Even though it is natural to want to know all these things, it isn't possible to accurately forecast timeframes and results without first completing a comprehensive audit.
This is not the type of audit you usually get offered for free either...
Free Website Audits Vs Paid Website Audits
Free audits are offered so often in the SEO industry that many people are frustrated with all the cold email offers to provide one. Many of the "audits" are nothing more than a company running your site through a single tool or program and sending you the nice report it spits out at the end. SEO auditing tools are great, but they are not a replacement for a skilled analysis of a website.
At its core consumers know that a free audit is nothing more than a commitment for them to receive a sales pitch from the SEO company. What's more, many free audits focus on just one piece of the puzzle.
If you have a website that has history behind it, you may need
A Content Audit
A Technical SEO Audit (including site speed & mobile readiness)
A Back-Link Profile Audit
Does every site need a link audit? No, but the only way to know is by asking specific questions prior to determining which areas you would need to audit. This is something that is more likely to happen with a paid audit than a free one.
With the SEO industry overrun with free SEO audits and free SEO audit tools, why should someone pay for an audit? To answer that, let's take a step outside of the marketing world for just a moment.
If you wanted to have a custom house designed - would you expect a free "blueprint" from the builder?
If your car isn't working and you take it to a mechanic - would you expect them to troubleshoot it for free? For most, the answer is no.
If You Don't Value Your Expertise - Why Would Your Customers?
As skilled professionals the time spent working and the knowledge used in creating your plan both have value.
Specific to SEO, if someone completes a real website audit and creates a roadmap for you to follow, that has a great deal of value.
If someone is experienced and good at SEO, they have many opportunities to monetize their time. Building their own online stores, running affiliate sites, entering joint ventures with other companies, and so on.
As a consumer, this would make me wonder why with all the opportunities to monetize their time that they are working for free.
Wonder No More
Most of the time, whenever you go for the free SEO audit, it is not being conducted by an expert. Using a checklist, free audits are commonly outsourced to low cost workers outside of the US who know only how to work through the checklist. This type of audit can be effective for some websites, but if you have unique or complex issues, there is a good likelihood that something will be missed.
While common, not all free audits are outsourced, some are conducted in-house by entry level SEO assistants. Much like the outsourced audits, the inexperience of most entry level SEOs means that important issues could be missed, simply because they didn't know where or what to check.
Need an Example?
Many of you reading this may think - surely a large company wouldn't let these mistakes make it out the door to customers. Not only do they slip out, sometimes the entire team doesn't have the expertise to find the problem.
Here is one such case we uncovered during an SEO audit and penalty recovery project.
The company who was handling the SEO "specialized" in dealer (automotive) marketing. They are a large company, with 3 locations and several hundred employees. This company was vetted and recommended by the parent car company to their dealers, so many made the switch. Upon switching, one of the oldest and best-selling dealers in the area quickly lost rankings and spent 2 years struggling to regain any traction.
During that time, the marketing company was made aware of the issues and continually attempted to correct the problem. Their solution - to continually increase the keyword density for the terms that weren't ranking.
You read that correctly, a multi-million-dollar agency specializing in the automotive space and the best idea their entire team (including the CEO whom I had the pleasure of speaking with) could come up with was to repeat the keyword more often. What's worse, this company is one of the certified providers for 6 major US car brands. If you are in the market - they do offer free audits though....
Stop and think for a moment, how much money a new car dealership would lose in sales over two years.
I can tell you one thing, it was a lot more than the audit and recovery project we ran cost them.
You know why we were able to find and fix that issue along with the several others that were missed?
Because an experienced SEO professional on our team conducted the audit, not a new guy following a checklist.
The Moral of The Story
You get what you pay for. If you want to stake the success of your company on a free audit, completed just to sell you a service, you are more likely to end up with less than optimal results. If you are serious about your online success, take the time to find an SEO audit service that is ran by experienced professionals that can bring real value to your business and uncover problems that are missed by most.
I am fiercely competitive and passionate about SEO, which means working with myself and the Stellar SEO team will put you on the winning side. Nothing about SEO is guaranteed, but we make a habit of helping brands dominate, even in the most competitive of industries. Since 2012, my company, Stellar SEO, has become one of the most highly regarded names in Search Engine Optimization. Taking the unconventional route, my journey to becoming an SEO industry expert began after reading a magazine article with a "Best Business to Start" headline. Starting with no funding or prior business experience, I began researching everything I could about entrepreneurship and SEO. In the process, I personally tested every theory, piece of sales advice, and "proven" method to deliver effective link-building campaigns. I found that there is no one-size-fits-all method or magic guru tricks to link building.