A few days ago, Google posted an interesting little video bit about the three steps you should take as a business owner to hire an SEO consultant or agency for your marketing initiatives.
So, what were the steps?
- Interview the SEO consultant
- Check their references and past work
Pretty straightforward, right?
Unfortunately, when it comes to the third step, Google made a massive blunder. And the SEO community has not been shy about calling them out on it either!
So, what was this controversial third step?
Google recommends that you request a technical audit of your site.
For those of us less versed in SEO verbiage - they're talking about a deep-dive analysis of your website that identifies the core areas of improvement. As you can probably imagine, this takes a good deal of time and expertise to pull off correctly.
And Google recommends that you do this before you hire a consultant. This implies that it should be done for free!
While this is a fantastic bargain for business owners, it's also an utterly misguided recommendation on the part of the Big G.
In fact, it's comparable to hiring a roofer because your roof is leaking and having them take your roof apart for free to find out why exactly it's leaking. As a business owner, it shouldn't be hard to see how their time, supplies, and expertise are all gone to waste in that scenario.
However, on the flip side - technical audits are a necessary step in being able to make precise and data-driven improvement recommendations. And for an SEO agency, they play a crucial role in our ability to put together accurate quotes and create roadmaps for our clients' initiatives.
Some agencies like ourselves are selective and confident enough in the longevity of our relationships with clients that we can roll this sizable cost into the overall campaign and pro-rate it in the onboarding phase.
But a vast majority of the time, "free audits" are either absolutely superficial (read: useless), or they could even be a potential sign of a complete scam in the making. Especially when they're coupled with one-size-fits-all packages.
They're just a stick and carrot approach to delivering value. In reality - many of these superficial free audits are PDF exports of a software scan of your website. And since most business owners aren't well versed in SEO - it's essentially a way for many third-rate agencies to say, "Hey look, we delivered something!" without actually putting any time or effort into helping the client make sense of the "what's, how's and when's."
Keep in mind - any sort of audits, roadmaps, and estimates (whether free or paid) should always come with a detailed consultation and a comprehensive breakdown of how any of the outlined changes will piece together as part of your SEO initiative.
So, are we recommending that you completely avoid free audits? Not quite.
What we're saying here is - exercise caution. Before hiring any consultant or agency, you'll need to do your own due diligence and get a second opinion to make sure that any quotes or project plans are based on data and real insights from an expert rather than just a 2-minute software scan of your site.
And while there are some agencies that run on a model which allows them to roll these costs into the overall campaign - you shouldn't be surprised if you have to pay for an audit as a small precursor project to your initiative.