Want to improve the organic search visibility of your website?
Step one is commonly an SEO audit.
An SEO audit can produce valuable insights. It reveals past SEO strategy and tactics – or lack thereof – and is a fresh way to get started with a new partner,
The best audits are done in-depth and focused on aspects across the three key areas of SEO:
They also use some keyword or goal-oriented focuses to compare against. This allows for a deeper analysis of keyword performance and competitor comparison.
When investing time, energy, and actual dollars in an SEO audit, you are probably doing it with the goal of taking action afterward. Perhaps you’re looking to get a return on investment or jump-start ranking, traffic, and conversion goal improvements.
So what comes next?
Here are some specific next steps you should take after the audit is completed to build momentum and ensure your time and investment isn’t wasted.
1. Develop a List of Insights
A detailed, handcrafted audit report often includes:
- The list of SEO items audited.
- What the status is of those items weighed against best practices, audience, and competitive filters.
- Recommendations of aspects to correct or improve.
These are often woven throughout the report and sometimes are summarized in an executive summary or conclusion section.
For lighter or more automated audits, this section of findings might be lacking clarity or depth.
Your first step after the SEO audit is to get to the short (or possibly long) list of specific insights and things that need action.
2. Prioritize Based on Level of Impact
Using the list that was included in the audit report, or the insights you compiled, it’s time to begin the planning phase.
If you have the option to go back to the person or team (internally or externally) who conducted the audit or do a post-audit meeting, this is the time to learn and understand the expected level of impact of each of the items on the insights list.
Not all corrective or optimization actions will have the same magnitude of impact. While SEO professionals are pressed to avoid promises due to the uncertain nature of the industry, there should be a scale and objective way to prioritize the list based on how big issues are.
Setting expectations of what the impact could be, even when they are based on benchmarks and where you want to be, will be helpful later for measurement of actual impact.
For example, resolving the issue of missing title and meta description tags on every page of the site by writing custom, helpful, keyword focused tags will likely have more impact and should have higher priority than implementing schema structured data for a contact us page.
3. Determine Necessary Resources
With a prioritized list of action items based on the level of impact, you can now determine the necessary time, budget, and resources needed to tackle each item.
Some updates can be made in minutes by a single person with little training. Others might require the assistance of other departments, individuals, or outside vendors.
Something like the implementation of a sophisticated canonical tag strategy might require a good technical SEO mind plus the skills of a web developer. Those resources may cost money and have to be slotted into schedules.
Once you know how long it will take to implement each item, what it will cost in time and resources, coupled with the level of impact from the previous step, you can filter the list and re-prioritize.
4. Develop a Timeline
You now have an outline of the work and needs in front of you. This is not the time to take your foot off the gas.
Pushing forward on the SEO plan can be daunting due to time, resource, and budget constraints. However, SEO is a long-term commitment that is fueled by short-term activities and tactical execution.
At this point, you should be able to see what the all-in investment is for implementing all of the items on the list.
Based on budgeting, pacing, and the ability to commit, it should be possible to know how much time overall it will take to work through everything.
With this in hand, you can develop a timeline with specific milestones, goals, and reporting cycles to measure the impact of the effort.
5. Create an Action Plan
Putting the plan in motion, you’ll need to find the right systems to ensure that:
- Collaboration is easy.
- Tasks are scheduled and assigned.
- Accountability is attached.
Whether that is a workflow program, SEO tool, or project management suite, treating this as a real project or campaign following the audit is one of the best things you can do to give it a fair shot.
Heaping a big stack of tasks or assignments on an individual, team, or group of roles with no expectation or accountability is a big risk for failure.
Setting the tone with a plan and an expectation of it being organized and completed on budget and on time is critical.
Not all stakeholders and roles will understand the potential impact of improving SEO if they only have a small role in certain pieces.
The IT manager (no offense) probably won’t care much about why you want them to change 302 redirects to 301s or set a canonical version of the root domain.
Without some education and a clear assignment with a due date that tucks into the plan, it might go into an IT queue with low priority and never get done.
6. Achieve Success
How are you going to know what SEO success looks like and that this effort was worthwhile?
Tying back into the goals and expectations you set in the first post-audit step of assessing the best estimate possible of the level of impact of the action items identified, you can measure performance.
Using baseline or benchmark data, you can isolate the project schedule and see where average position, impressions, traffic, and conversions changed during the project or campaign.
With a dedicated plan and concerted effort, you should be able to track specific improvements.
Be sure to use the annotation feature in Google Analytics and have regular reporting cycles monthly or weekly depending on how long your timeline is for implementing the plan.
This is a great way to track improvement over time and understand the actual impact versus the estimated level of impact and to make any agile revisions to the plan or to keep going with the original schedule.
The SEO audit process can be overwhelming.
Depending on the type of audit, and how much support and education you receive at the end of the process, it can be challenging to use the audit as a powerful tool to improve the optimization of a website.
Through working from insights to fully-actionable and measurable plan, you can achieve success and find ROI not just for the audit investment itself, but in leveraging SEO as a valuable digital marketing channel.