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Inside An SEO Audit

Inside An SEO Audit

[By Aaron Broverman]

Everyone knows by now that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, but an SEO audit is more than just looking under the hood of your web presence and finding out why your brand isn’t one of the top results on Google for your services.

“It’s the general term for studying what is going wrong with your website or what can be improved. It’s identifying errors and missed opportunities that, once fixed or capitalized on, can improve the web presence of your business,” says Val Zamulin, head of SEO at ICM Consulting and Media Corporation, a Toronto-based internet marketing company.

So in an effort to learn how an SEO audit can be beneficial to the marketing of any business with a web presence, we asked Zamulin what goes into an SEO audit and how you know you need one.

Content is as Important as Keywords

Maybe your website isn’t generating the leads it once did, or maybe you just want more business from your web presence than you’re currently getting. Zamulin says there are many reasons why your website may not be performing to its fullest potential and all of them can be revealed during an SEO audit.

Not only does an audit fix your ranking in Google by helping Google associate your site with the proper keywords, but it also addresses content issues that may not be search engine- or user-friendly.

“A proper SEO audit looks further than just technical issues. We try to help businesses not only come up on the first page, but also benefit from that positioning more than if they had a dull, boring page that’s not engaging,” says Zamulin.

This is because Google has begun to base its search rankings more on behavioural SEO patterns.

“That means that if people don’t stay on your page and they bounce right off, no matter how many backlinks your website has from reputable sites, those backlinks won’t materialize into any kind of business,” says Zamulin.

What Google wants to see is sustained user engagement with your website and a pleasant user experience. This has to do with how well your brand message is positioned and how well search keywords are massaged into that marketing message.

“You have to think outside the box if you really want to make your SEO customers happy,” says Zamulin.

“You have to weave those keywords into marketing-savvy content and original, readable content. You don’t just cram those keywords in for the sake of doing it because that may get you on Google’s front page for a while, but if people don’t engage with the content and bounce off your site, then all that work will be for nothing.”

The question is, how do you weave in that content and improve its keyword density without disrupting customer experience?

Penalties and Detoxes

Of course ICM know the answer to this question, but that’s the secret sauce and you’ll probably have to pay them for the answer.

“We know a lot about how to make pages convert. We know what good converting pages look like. It’s a fine combination of making them keyword saturated and user-friendly, so this is something we customize for every audit,” says Zamulin.

Every custom audit starts with assessing a company’s SEO health score: an assessment of where its website stands for the keywords it’s positioned for. Then, the next step depends on whether the website is nowhere to be found when those keywords are searched for, or only some of them trigger the website as a search result.

SEO audits are always very customized, says Zamulin. “There’s no boilerplate template. They are based on the specific pains of a customer and it’s not just about not getting any search appearances, but not getting enough.”

One reason your company’s website might not be showing up in a search is because of a Google penalty.

Google penalizes websites and omits them or lowers them in search results because the offending website goes outside of Google’s guidelines.

“The lion’s share of penalties have to do with indiscriminate link building or spammy link building, which is being too explicit in trying to game Google’s results like inserting backlinks from shady websites into unnatural-looking link text,” says Zamulin.

If the signs are there that your website should be in the top 500 search results and it’s not, Zamulin would almost guarantee it’s because of a penalty. Once a penalty is discovered, an excavation commences and Zamulin and ICM begin rebuilding the code and eliminating the spammy back links.

This is part of the technical detox that every site is put through by ICM.

“We outline the steps for detoxifying your website: where to go, what to do, what links to destroy, what links to keep and why we think your anchor text is too keyword-ridden, for example,” says Zamulin.

“Remember, an audit is an actionable plan that’s given to a customer as a recommendation. Generally, after an audit, a customer is on their own, but if they want ICM to execute the plan, it’s built-in to the price of the audit as a retainer.”

Depending on the size of your business, the complexity of your website and the reach you want to achieve, a quality SEO audit can cost at minimum $900 up to at least five figures.

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