By Bill Hartzer, March 5, 2020 at 9:33am CST.
Google Webmasters produced a video about hiring an SEO specialist. In the video, they give some good tips about what you should look for when hiring an SEO. For example, they suggest that you shouldn’t hire an SEO that give you bad advice or recommends bad shortcuts, and SEOs that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. That’s all great. But in the video, they seem to suggest that companies looking to hire an SEO should ask them to provide a technical audit of the website. Even before they’re hired. Should an SEO provide a technical audit, for free, to a website even before they’re hired? Absolutely not. Here’s why.
First, though, let’s take a look at the video and the advice that Google Webmasters is giving:
For over 10 years now I’ve been recommending that all businesses get a technical audit done before doing “ongoing” search engine optimization. A proper technical SEO audit, though, involves a lot of work, expertise and skill, and, most importantly, TIME.
Google Webmasters, in their video, seems to be suggesting that before a company even hires an SEO that the SEO should provide a technical audit? That just doesn’t seem right, especially since a PROPER technical audit can take 10-40+ hours of work. You wouldn’t ask a lawyer to give you free legal advice (10-40+ hours’ worth) before you even hire them, would you?
Yes, you should check references. And you should ask the SEO for a “few” issues that are wrong with the website. Those issues, though, do NOT constitute a technical audit of a website. It’s misleading and wrong for you to suggest that a company or website owner ask for a technical audit of their website before they’re even hired. Why? As I mentioned, it takes hours and a lot of expertise to perform a proper technical SEO audit.
If a company requests that an SEO perform a technical audit before they’re even hired, then several things will happen: The SEO will provide extremely “high level” problems or issues, most likely ones that have nothing to do with the site. They’ll present issues that occur with all websites, and the SEO is just looking to provide a “quick answer” to get the company’s business. The company hiring the SEO will be misled, thinking that they have a wonderful technical SEO audit of their website. Then, a few months down the road, the company will wonder why their website visibility, traffic, and sales haven’t improved. After all, they got a “technical audit” of their website!
What is a proper technical SEO audit?
A proper technical audit of a website is when an SEO consultant (like myself), uses tools such as crawlers like Googlebot’s crawlers to crawl a website and gather data. The SEO consultant manually reviews data from Google Analytics, Google Search Console, the website’s own log files, and other data sources. Then, once the data is gathered (which can take up to several days to gather for some websites), the SEO consultant manually reviews the data, and finds technical issues, such as crawling issues, coding issues, and formatting issues with the website. Issues that need to be fixed, typically that are holding the website back from being crawled properly and showing up in the search engine results. This can involve coding issues, web design issues, or even content issues (such as a lack of quality content on the website). Then, all of this is written up in a document (called a technical SEO audit document), and it should include screen shots and explanations of everything. The SEO consultant should also spend time with the company to explain everything, whether this is through email, or even a video call or in person. They should also offer suggestions for moving forward to not only implement the changes or suggestions, but also they should provide recommendations for ongoing SEO and technical SEO support.
A proper technical SEO audit should be paid for by the company once they’re confident that the SEO consultant has the expertise to provide and conduct a proper technical SEO audit.
What is NOT a technical SEO audit?
Google Webmasters seems to suggest in this video that a technical audit is something that can be provided, in a short amount of time, for free, before the SEO consultant is even hired. If that is the case, it should not be called a technical audit because it is not a technical audit. It’s only a series of high level suggestions that are technical. It’s NOT a technical audit of a website. Sure, ask the SEO consultant for some technical suggestions and high level recommendations. But asking an SEO consultant for a technical audit of the website before you even hire them is setting you, and the SEO consultant, up for failure.
Why Google’s Suggestion is Wrong
Most of the tips in this video are good tips. The concepts are good–but asking for a technical audit of a website even before the SEO is hired, is flat out bad advice. Very bad advice, and it’s going to lead to problems for the company.
If you ask for (and actually receive) a technical audit, for free, even before the SEO consultant is hired, I’d RUN away from that SEO consultant and would not deal with them at all. SEO consultants that provide a “technical audit” or even call it a “technical audit” for free before they’re even hired is misleading, sketchy, and not someone that you’d want to deal with in the first place. A good SEO consultant will explain to you that they won’t provide a technical SEO audit of your website for free.