It's Time For An SEO Audit
When's the last time you or your marketing team ran an SEO audit? If the answer is "when the site first went live," or "a few years ago," or "What's an SEO audit?" then this article is for you!
First, to ensure we're all on the same page, an SEO audit is a thorough review of your website to make sure that your site will rank as high as possible in search engine results. It might be referred to as a website audit, a search audit, SEO review or any similar variation. It looks at the technical architecture of your site, the content on the site, and opportunities for improvement or items requiring an immediate fix.
Second, you should be running an SEO audit on your website at least twice a year. And that's the minimum. In a perfect world, a quarterly audit will help ensure that you’re constantly refining your website to adapt to the constantly changing Google search algorithm. If you’re not regularly updating your website's backend structure, metatags & descriptions, and content, you could be missing out on opportunities to improve your page rank, customer experience, and number of new rentals.
By now you're wondering where to get a website audit and whether it's something you can do on your own. Many agencies and website design firms will provide you with reports for free as part of their lead generation. However, it's easy for dishonest companies to cherry-pick specific points from a website audit report and try to convince an operator to spend thousands of dollars that could be used elsewhere. Unfortunately, many self-storage businesses have fallen victim to this type of deception when in reality, a few minor changes to your website can yield significant results on your bottom line.
Which SEO audit report tool is right for you?
The number of tools to audit your website seems to grow every year. You may be familiar with some of the names, like MOZ, and SEMRush, while hearing others might make you say "Gesundheit" (Looking at you Ahrefs). These are the big three, although we'll also include one other option that may be right for you. All of these services offer some variation of a free trial with subscriptions starting around $100/mo. The suggestions and observations from each of these tools will vary in some ways because they each focus on different areas of SEO. However, a lot of the technical SEO components will be the same or similar across the platforms, in aspects where Google has given specific guidance in what they are looking for on a page. The most important thing about the tool you choose, is that you use the same one consistently. Switching tools constantly will give you an apples to oranges comparison that never quite gets you where you want to be.
Check out the tools we've outlined below and talk to a trusted self-storage marketing expert about interpreting your results to avoid being misled. Here are some of your top options:
SEMRush gives you a TON of data. More data in a single dashboard than either Moz or Ahrefs provides across all of their reports. This gives you an incredible amount of granularity in the information available to you, and their dashboard makes it relatively easy to understand. The flip side of the volume of data that SEMRush provides is that if you're brand new to digital marketing, it can be overwhelming, even with their visualization tools. Another downside to SEMRush is that it only pulls results data from Google. If you have a significant amount of traffic coming from Bing, or Duckduckgo, or any of the smaller web crawlers out there, SEMRush isn't going to help.
MOZ has some tools that are always free, but don’t offer as many insights when compared to the paid option. The most useful of these free tools is their keyword research tool. This tool is a great supplement regardless of whatever audit solution you select as your primary, especially if you're also running GoogleAds. MOZ has almost as much data for you as SEMRush, but doesn't put it into the easy-to-follow visuals that SEMRush provides, meaning there is a much steeper learning curve to using MOZ before you're able to pull actionable intel from it.
Ahrefs offers you data about how your website performs across a range of search engines but doesn't give you anywhere near the granularity for any of them that SEMRush provides for Google. It's also a very bare-bones UX, meaning that if you need to report the information you're compiling, you'll need to format it yourself. Of all the tools we've discussed so far, Ahrefs requires the most sophisticated user to get the most out of it.
The last tool we're going to touch on today is Lighthouse. We didn't mention it with the rest because it differs from most SEO audit tools.
Lighthouse is free.
Lighthouse, which Google maintains, is the free tool that we use at Automatit as our ultimate source of truth for website performance. In addition to SEO reporting, Lighthouse can check site performance, progressive web apps, and accessibility. Lighthouse is also an essential part of the recipe that the rest of these audit tools use to make their algorithms work. Measuring with Google and Lighthouse gives you intel directly from the source, without interference or interpretation from anyone else. Anyone with a Chrome web browser and a Google sign-in can use Lighthouse to audit a website.
So with all of that going for Lighthouse, why would anyone use any of the other tools? First, many people don't realize that accessing Google's developer tools is as simple as pressing f12 (on a Windows machine), and only takes a few minutes to set up. Second, Lighthouse gives you the data uncut, with almost no interpretation. If you aren’t somewhat familiar with web development and marketing, it can be difficult to parse out actionable information. Finally, because this tool doesn’t generate any revenue for Google, they don’t put any marketing or advertising budget behind it, so quite simply, unless you’re involved in tech and digital marketing, you may not have heard of it.
Context is key
As the last word on these tools, it's crucial to take in the reports you get back with the full context. Make sure that you understand what you're seeing and ask lots of questions to fill in the gaps. Sometimes your business is in dire need of help, but more often than not, small changes can help you take the next step!