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SEO Assessment vs. SEO Audit

Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.

You need to know how a client’s site stacks up from a SEO standpoint. More importantly, you need to know what actions you can take to get more people from search engines to that site. You need an SEO assessment.

What you don’t need is a lengthy SEO audit report full of red flags and devoid of direction.

SEO assessments and SEO audits are not the same thing. Assessments provide insight and direction in the form of action items that help you and your client achieve their business goals. SEO audits supply generalized warnings that if acted upon, may or may not move the needle.

Let’s get into what distinguishes an SEO assessment from an SEO audit and how you can use assessments to attract and better serve clients.

What is an SEO Assessment?

An SEO Assessment is a high-level overview of a site’s organic search performance, combined with thoughtful and specific recommendations for improvement. It creates a benchmark and outlines a roadmap for growth.

SEO Assessments are typically generated by human SEO professionals, not programmatic software. Typically assessments get delivered as a concise presentation deck outlining findings based on the four pillars of SEO: technical, content, on-site, and off-site.

What is an SEO Audit?

An SEO audit is an automatically-generated report of SEO errors or issues on a site. They are typically generated by site-scanning SEO software.

If you’ve ever used a WordPress SEO plugin, you may have seen what we’re talking about. Most SEO plugins scan for, and report on, things like title tag and meta description length, keyword use, presence of internal links, etc.

Most SEO audit tools take the same approach, but on steroids. They programmatically scan a site and spit out an unreasonably long report highlighting every single potential issue on it.

An SEO audit of a 25-page site can generate a report with three to four times as many pages. While you can mine these reports for insights or ideas for website improvements, most SEO audits don’t readily offer action items. This means most SEO audits are less than helpful.

SEO Assessments vs. SEO Audits

We’re clearly biased toward SEO assessments. After years of doing SEO, we’ve seen the results of the thoughtful recommendations they provide. Results we haven’t seen with SEO audits.

The key difference between these two types of reports is the amount of direction included. SEO assessments return thoughtful recommendations and a roadmap for actionable improvements that will impact a client’s bottom line. SEO audits simply scan for red flags and are mostly devoid of direction.

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Should SEO Assessments & SEO Audits be Free or Paid?

A lot of agencies use free SEO audits to generate client leads. This can work because audits don’t require much effort. But keep in mind that clients that love free services can come with some serious baggage.

Offer paid SEO assessments instead. They are far more valuable for clients and more likely to help you land high-quality clients willing to pay for ongoing SEO services.

SEO assessments should be paid because you need to put time and expertise into reviewing a site. You’ll need to craft thoughtful recommendations. You’ll need to create a roadmap for improvement. And, you should get paid for all that work.

Our typical SEO assessments run anywhere from $500 to $1000. Putting a price tag on your assessments shows your clients that you know your worth and you aren’t willing to work for free. This is one useful way to build trust with clients from the very beginning.

The Benefits of Offering SEO Assessments

If you are running a web development or digital marketing agency, you can offer SEO assessments as one-off projects or incorporate them into more comprehensive SEO packages.

When we complete an SEO assessment, we hand our recommendations to our clients for them to use as they like. They can take it to a cousin who dabbles in SEO, complete the work in-house, or have us — experienced SEO professionals — implement it for them. Most of the time, it’s an easy choice.

As such, SEO assessments can be great “on-ramps” for new SEO clients. They allow you to test-drive working relationships with new clients before making any formal commitments beyond the SEO assessment. And, by providing your clients with a roadmap full of specific SEO recommendations, you are positioning yourself as the most logical provider to execute those recommendations.

What’s Included in an SEO Assessment?

The expected deliverable for an SEO assessment is a presentation deck reviewing your findings. Here are the three critical components to include in that presentation:

  1. Education: Introduce your client to the world of SEO and make it feel accessible. The time you invest to educate your clients is invaluable. It demonstrates your SEO expertise and client-management skills, which reassures new clients.
  2. Evaluation: Observe a client’s website at a high level to identify SEO-related strengths and weaknesses. Break your evaluation into four sub-topics: technical SEO, content, on-site SEO, and off-site SEO.
  3. Roadmap: Present action items in your roadmap that will turn your client’s weaknesses into strengths. Should your client hire you to implement the roadmap, you’ll already have an SEO strategy to work with.

The Takeaway

Support your business and generate value for your clients at the same time by offering paid SEO assessments. They’re relatively easy projects to complete, and they’re highly useful from a strategic standpoint.

We recommend you avoid auto-generated SEO audits altogether. They’ll largely waste time, and ultimately create confusion and overwhelm.

If you want to learn how to quickly and efficiently produce SEO assessments for your clients, sign up for Pathfinder SEO. We provide resources to walk you step-by-step through creating SEO assessments for your clients. 

FREE 1 Hour Course
Learn how to offer SEO services

Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.
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