SEO is one of the more mystifying aspects of marketing. Google updates its search algorithms an estimated 500-600 times per year, making it tricky to keep up with all the seemingly hidden factors that influence a website’s ranking on the search engine results page (SERP).

Even seasoned marketers can struggle to understand how SEO affects their website traffic. Sometimes it takes a deep dive into the guts of your B2B website to get a clear picture of what’s going on — and how you can improve your rankings in the long term.

SEO audits are designed to paint that picture. We sat down with Motum B2B’s SEO Manager, Brandon Gilmore, to explain how SEO audits work and how they help businesses gain a competitive edge in niche B2B industries.

What is an SEO audit?

Gilmore describes an SEO audit as a diagnostic of your website’s health from an SEO standpoint.

“When search engines crawl your website, they look at thousands of different elements on and off your website," he explains. "Some examples include your robots.txt file, the website’s structure, the code behind the page, and the content on the page itself."

An SEO audit is conducted with an understanding of how all those factors work together. Different experts may approach this differently, but we perform SEO audits in three components: technical SEO, keyword research, and competitor analysis (including backlinks).

Technical SEO

The technical SEO portion of an audit involves a combination of SEO tools such as SE Ranking and Screaming Frog. These tools load the HTML of your website like a search engine would and flag various errors, warnings, and notices based on each program’s unique set of criteria.

“We use multiple tools to make sure we have a holistic and thorough approach to identifying any issues on the website, as well as eliminating any false positives that may appear when doing a crawl,” Gilmore explains. “We start with a high-level approach, and then dive deeper to investigate different issues identified by the tools.”

Many websites are built with structures inherited from the same template, so by identifying larger issues within the templates, you can have a bigger impact across more pages. Then it’s about drilling down into more specific opportunities for optimization.

Keyword research

The next fundamental phase of an SEO audit is keyword research. This phase starts with an understanding of which keywords you want to be found with and evolves into alternative keywords that help you be more competitive within the SERP. Then it’s about looking closer at the SERP to understand search intent and what content drives the results.

This is not a linear process but one that evolves as you research keywords, find new alternatives, investigate the SERP, and analyze benchmark reports.

Competitor analysis

In the next key phase, we compare our client’s stated competitors against a list of ones from our own research. This can sometimes bring up a few surprises.

“The competitors identified by our clients are not necessarily the ones taking up space in the SERP, so we may discover new ones that our client was not even aware of,” Gilmore says. “Competitor research is also a benchmark of how clients are doing against their competitors from a search and backlinks perspective.”

In other words, you get a clearer view of what makes your competitors rank where they are on the SERP and what you may be missing to claim a higher position.

At Motum B2B, we incorporate a backlink audit into this stage, which can help identify any low-quality or harmful backlinks — that is, links on other websites that point to a page on your own site.

What can an SEO audit reveal?

Among the issues flagged by technical SEO tools, errors are considered the most harmful to your website, notices are the least harmful, and warnings are somewhere in between.

Considering the wide scope of a typical SEO audit, there are several types of issues you might identify as a result, ranging from minor notices (such as a URL with more than 200 characters) to more fundamental errors (such as pages that can’t be crawled by search engines).

You may have a long list in front of you, and some may need to be addressed more urgently, while others may not be priorities for your website at all. Some may have an immediate impact on your SEO, while others support the long-term health of your site.

Applying fixes could involve more technical exercises like altering your website’s code or improving its performance, updating or adding content to make your site more relevant to the crawler, or redesigning a UI element to make the site easier to navigate.

One of the benefits of working with SEO experts like Gilmore is that they can analyze and contextualize everything you see in the results. Based on their understanding of your B2B business, they can help you prioritize the most critical issues, avoid spending time and effort on false flags, and implement the audit’s findings effectively.

When should you do an SEO audit?

“It’s important to regularly have site audits for your SEO success, whether it’s using automated tools or an agency with SEO expertise,” Gilmore says. “We highly encourage performing site audits for optimal SEO health.”

For B2B businesses in general, he recommends performing an SEO audit every 3–5 years. Frequent changes in SEO technology and search algorithms make it necessary to reevaluate your strategies on a regular basis.

Beyond that, the answer depends on your business. An SEO audit may come in handy if you’re planning to rebuild your website, make significant updates, or implement new content programs.

“If you’re noticing organic traffic lower than what you expect, or it’s trending downwards, that’s a good time to do a site audit,” Gilmore adds. “It can diagnose and discover the root cause of those downward trends that may not be visible to the average marketer.”

What can you expect?

The overall process of an SEO audit happens in several stages. At Motum B2B, we start with kickoff meetings and a questionnaire to understand the goals behind your site audit. We apply our experience to the combined results from multiple tools to conduct the audit itself.

We then present the audit over three sessions and share the reports with you, along with our recommendations to improve the site’s health.

“Recommendations are identified with priorities. It’s important to come up with a plan to implement those recommendations,” Gilmore says. If you’re not able to implement them all yourself, it’s important to develop that part of your plan to work with partners who have the required expertise.

“The SEO landscape is constantly changing, along with your competitors,” he adds. “It’s important to keep an eye on what competitors are doing, see how your website is performing within the current landscape, and provide a strategy you can use to improve your website’s SEO, content, and user experience.”

Want to get a pulse on your website’s SEO health?

Contact our SEO experts to get started on your next audit.