While I work with one particular kind of site analysis, a myriad of offerings are symbolic of the industry at large. There are small but thorough examinations of niche portions of a site -- social media, organic, SEM (define), PHP-only (define), and so on; large, comprehensive diagnostics of a site, including competitive analysis; and everything in between.
Similarly, the price range is enormous. But the quality of the analysis and the price don't correlate as tightly as you might like. That's why whether you're a shopper or a vendor, you must prove you can ask and answer intelligent questions.
Complete Medical History
It's possible to perform a pretty good site analysis without ever talking to the client (an unsolicited partial site analysis can be an efficient sales tool if handled and delivered correctly). But a truly exceptional analysis can be done only after a thorough interview with people who know the site's history.
It's a little frustrating when a doctor can't make a proper diagnosis until after running a battery of tests, doing a full blood workup, and taking a monotonous medical history. But it would be far more frustrating to go to a doctor, get an instant diagnosis, pop some pills, and then find out the diagnosis was wrong.
Here are some questions that I always ask potential site analysis clients, along with some rationale behind asking them:
Same As It Ever Was?
If you're buying or selling a site audit, consider how it might have changed over the years. Shoppers, ask what elements the audit used to examine but no longer does. Vendors, don't give them time to ask, and instead, jump right into it.
Here you'll land squarely on the equator between the hemispheres of "best-practices SEO is timeless and unchanging" and "SEO is so dynamic that it's a constantly moving target." As you all know by now, it's both and neither.
Today, that's much less of a problem due to engines' abilities to index much larger pages. While we still evaluate that issue, it's now related more to page load time, and it's far lower on the priority scale than it used to be.
Now Try to Sell It
A paradox of SEO/SEM business development is the client who, on one hand, loathes the idea of "cookie-cutter" SEO, but on the other hand, wants to know (on the first call) exactly what you'll do with the site, how long it will take, and the expected results. This is the thorny path to the garden, and if you can diplomatically and deftly maneuver between the briars, you can educate the client about what you offer and why it might take longer than they expect.
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Erik Dafforn is the executive vice president of Intrapromote LLC, an SEO firm headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. Erik manages SEO campaigns for clients ranging from tiny to enormous and edits Intrapromote's blog, SEO Speedwagon. Prior to joining Intrapromote in 1999, Erik worked as a freelance writer and editor. He also worked in-house as a development editor for Macmillan and IDG Books. Erik has a Bachelor's degree in English from Wabash College. Follow Erik and Intrapromote on Twitter.
June 20, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT