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SEO Audit Tips to Close More Deals

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SEO Audit Tips to Close More Deals

In the SEO industry, it is common for businesses who are looking to acquire SEO services to request an audit of their website. I know from experience that SEO audits can make or break the deal. It shows potential partners the agency or freelancer’s level of competency and expertise. It also allows potential partners to set expectations and KPIs.

As the CEO of SEO Hacker and the lead business developer of the company, I have done and sent hundreds of SEO audits to businesses. In this blog post, I’m willing to share some of my best kept secrets that may seem simple at first but have allowed me to close more deals for our team.

Note: This post was originally published on May 13, 2021, and was updated on May 31, 2022 to include new tips and data.

Customize your reports

There are a lot of lead generation tools for SEO that offer automated SEO audits for leads and we at SEO Hacker even use them ourselves.

I would say that those are only part of the process.

What matters more is the audit that you do when you are already in talks with your partners or during your sales pitch.

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Important: SEO audits should be tailored to the client. There is no one-size-fits-all SEO audit because every website and business is unique. When tailoring an SEO audit, consider the client’s business goals, target market, and budget.

I do two things to create a fully customized report:

  1. Manually audit the website
  2. Use a tool to automate the SEO audit

SEO audits should be tailored to the client quote card

Manually audit the website

Here are some tips that may help you out in picking out the details you would want to include in your audit:

  • Try to get everything out of their homepage and point out every opportunity for optimization there.
  • Pick out important pages with unoptimized title tags. You don’t have to give them a full list. You just have to pick out those that could possibly be giving them more traffic and more sales.
  • Check their site structure and website indexability.
  • Critique their content. Many companies know that content is important in SEO but they don’t necessarily know how to write SEO-friendly articles. 
  • Use a backlink checker to analyze their backlinks. Link building is a hot topic for businesses looking for SEO services so if you can point out areas of improvement there you can get higher chances of closing the deal.
  • Show them screenshots and/or give a list of URLs you see that need to be optimized. Partners like to be very specific. Simply giving them a list of bullet points is not enough. 

Use a tool to automate the SEO audit

Next, use a trustworthy tool to fill in the gaps of your manual audit.

In this case, let’s use Netpeak Spider.

Netpeak Spider landing page

Note: Some of the features I’ll be discussing are under the PRO subscription.

One of the many things I absolutely love about this tool is just how simple it is to use and how easy the results are to understand.

So for a quick SEO audit that’s going to help me or the Accounts Manager take a cursory look at our prospect’s website, Netpeak Spider really takes the cake.

I’ll stress that last part: Even if your Accounts Manager doesn’t have direct experience with SEO (but at least understands terminologies—I mean, they need to be able to explain to your partners and prospects how things work, right?), you can ask them to run the tool and interpret the results on their own.

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It’s that easy to understand.

My podcast’s—Leadership Stack—website can do better in terms of traffic, so let’s audit the website for our use case.

Step-by-step guide to using Netpeak Spider for an SEO audit

  • Go to the Netpeak Software website and download the launcher.
  • Open Netpeak Spider from the launcher. What you see below is the tool’s interface when you open it.

Netpeak Spider interface

Settings

  • Choose which settings are appropriate for your audit. In my case, I connected the GA/GSC accounts among other things.

GA and GSC

  • Check your Parameters. They’re on the right side of the interface. Again, what you check is up to your needs and what you want to see in the report.

Netpeak Spider Parameters

  • Input the website’s URL on the Enter URL bar. It’s at the top of the interface.

Netpeak Spider URL bar

  • Press Start.
  • After a few minutes (it can be pretty quick depending on the size of your website), the results will be displayed on the interface.

Leadership Stack Netpeak Spider results

  • Time to export the results. You can opt to click the SEO Audit PDF button at the top right of the interface…

SEO audit button

  • Or click Export and choose what parts of the audit you want to export.

Export reports

  • In this example, I decided to simply export the PDF. Here’s what the cover page of the report looks like:

Leadership Stack SEO audit results PDF

If you’re on the PRO subscription, you can opt to add your details such as your company website and email to the report.

Once you’re done collating your data, you can list what you see on a simple Word document with your logo as the header. Then convert it to a PDF file and send it to the client. Sounds simple enough but it does work.

Most of the time, you don’t have to use flashy presentations. What you need is a clear, concise, and straight to the point website audit that is easy to digest for any potential client.

Further reading: An In-depth Crawl into Netpeak Spider

Show what you can do for them

Simply diagnosing the problems of a website and showing it to your potential client will not make the cut. They already know that their website has problems and it needs to be optimized. That’s the reason why they’re reaching out to you in the first place.

If they just wanted a simple audit using an SEO tool, they could have done it themselves (hence, the combination of manual and automated audits).

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What partners are looking for in an SEO audit is how are you able to help them. You need to convince your potential partners that you are the SEO specialist for the job.

But before you add any solutions, you need to gauge your lead’s level of SEO knowledge.

If your lead is completely new to SEO, then you need to provide more details as to why the factors you listed need to be optimized and how important they are for ranking. Let’s say you’re working on an e-commerce website and you recommended that title tags of the product categories need to be changed.

Why did you recommend changing those title tags? Why is it important to optimize the title tag of a product category page? 

But for partners who are knowledgeable already with SEO, you may not need to discuss the importance of a product category page or of a title tag to them. But you still need to give your analysis on why their existing tags are not good.

You have to remember when businesses are shopping for SEO services, you are not the only one they are engaged with. They are most likely in talks with other service providers. What you are trying to do here is making them feel comfortable with you.

By crafting the right website audit, you can build trust, show your partners you’re competent and capable, and that they could give the project to you with no second thoughts.

Further reading: Learn SEO: The Complete Guide for Beginners and Technical SEO: The Complete Guide for Advanced Users (with Checklist)

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Add competitor analyses in your SEO audit

Adding a competitor analysis in your SEO audits for potential partners can be a game-changer. Most businesses will usually ask for an audit of their website alone but I highly recommend that you go the extra mile and do a quick or short audit of their competitors.

What you would want to do here is to compare some of the problems on their website versus their competitors’. Show them how they’re faring against their competitors.

You don’t need a very detailed analysis. You can use Netpeak Spider on the competitors’ websites and just insert a few comments on your bullet points. Screenshots of data are also helpful especially on backlink data and rankings.

Don’t reveal all your cards

I know that I just said you should show what you can do for them but that doesn’t mean you completely reveal everything you’ll be doing for them. There are two purposes for this:

  1. First is that it keeps your leads on the edge of their seats.
  2. Second is to protect you or your company.

Using the sample I used earlier, let’s say you listed down the product category pages of your potential client and told them that their title tags are not good. You say why they are not good but you don’t have to say what you would replace them with.

What you’re trying to do here is keeping potential partners engaged and interested. On the business side of things, you’re trying to avoid giving potential partners free work.

Key takeaway

SEO audits are only one part of the overall sales process but they are a crucial part of it. It gives your potential partners a little sneak peak on what you can do for them after putting ink on the contract. It helps set expectations and KPIs. It can be the difference between them choosing you or a different company.

 

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Building a Better Search Engine: Lessons From Neeva’s CEO

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Building a Better Search Engine: Lessons From Neeva’s CEO

After helping to grow Google’s advertising business for over 15 years, Sridhar Ramaswamy began to feel Google’s dependence on ads was limiting the quality of search results.

Determined to prove he could achieve a better search experience without ads, Ramaswamy co-founded and launched Neeva in 2019.

As the CEO of his own search company, Ramaswamy is accountable to the users of his product who pay a monthly subscription to access Neeva.

“No ads” means Neeva doesn’t have an incentive to collect data on its users, making it the only search engine on the market that’s both ad-free with a privacy option.

Ramaswamy is currently on the conference circuit raising awareness about Neeva, and we managed to catch up with him at Collision last week in Toronto.

We profiled Neeva once before and welcomed Ramaswamy as a guest on the Search Engine Journal Show in December.

However, each time we only scratched the surface. Now, we want to dig deeper.

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So, what makes Neeva different from the other companies — and what makes Neeva a viable alternative to Google and Bing?

What Are Neeva’s Core Values?

Many companies enter the market making lofty claims of how they’ll do right by users. Even Google once had “don’t be evil” written into its code of conduct: a promise to which some critics argue it hasn’t lived up. Google has de-emphasized “Don’t be evil” in its code of conduct, though it was never removed.

In 2021, Google was sued by three former employees over its “Don’t be evil” motto. They allege that failure to live up to the motto is the equivalent of a breach of contract.

To better understand how Neeva will continue delivering a product that puts users’ needs first, I asked Ramaswamy what Neeva’s core values are.

“It’s not something we have published, but this is something I’ve talked about a lot with Vivek [Raghunathan, co-founder of Neeva], and I feel good about saying it,” Ramaswamy began. “At our core, we think that, as a company, we want to make technology serve people.”

“I think many other technology companies, especially in the last 25, have turned rather exploitative,” he continued. “I think the ad model exemplifies this. Basically, if I can convince you and get you hooked on my product, I can pretty much do anything.”

“It’s Technology Serving People”

Make no mistake: Neeva is a for-profit organization, though Ramaswamy says its subscription-based revenue model is designed to serve people rather than advertisers.

“Yes, companies are for-profit, but I think if you set up your values to be aligned with your user, to be aligned with your customer, you’ll always serve them,” he said. “To me, that part is important. If you had to say, ‘Hey, what exemplifies what you do?’ It’s technology serving people. This is why we do things like offer a flat price for the search utility you get from us.”

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“Technology At Scale Is Quite Inexpensive”

Many companies within the sector lead consumers to believe scaling technology is expensive, which is how some justify charging higher fees, for instance, as they grow.

It doesn’t have to be that way, Ramaswamy says, as he believes the cost of technology at scale is overblown.

“It’s our belief that technology at scale is actually quite inexpensive,” he noted. “That’s the magic of technology, but right now, the way all of these companies are structured — as they scale, they squeeze more money from you.”

“It’s not like you’re getting more value, though obviously there are exceptions,” Ramaswamy continued. “But it’s really back to the basics of how you create products that delight people. And to me, that’s an honorable living.”

From left to right: Brittany Kaiser, Own Your Data; Sridhar Ramaswamy, Neeva; Ashley Gold, Axios.

What Does Neeva Do To ‘Serve People’?

Neeva’s definition of ‘technology serving people’ is exemplified by its feedback system.

Roughly 20% of the Neeva team is tasked solely with listening to customer feedback and using it to shape the product experience.

On the other hand, many criticize Google for not giving users what they want out of a search experience.

I asked Ramaswamy if he could give examples of specific customer feedback that helped shape Neeva into what it is today.

“There’s tons of feedback that comes to us. Sometimes we feel bad about not being about to take care of all of it,” he started. “But to give an example: We did a currency converter because, believe it or not, it was a top request. Initially, I did not understand this feedback. I was like, ‘Really? It’s that hard for you to click on a link and then type in your numbers and get your currency converted?”

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“But then,” Ramaswamy said, “I realized a larger truth about how people think about the internet.”

“People Fear Clicking On Links”

Neeva was initially against going the Google route of delivering content directly in the SERPs, but has had to make some concessions.

Through listening to customer feedback, the Neeva team learned there’s a real apprehension toward clicking on links in search results.

“Clicking on a link has now become an adversarial task. People actually fear clicking on links because they don’t know what’s on the other side,” Ramaswamy said. “Is it going to be a pop-up? Is it going to tell you that your computer has a virus? Is it something else? That’s the reason why we put [a currency converter] right into the search engine. So that’s one example.”

Another perk offered to Neeva subscribers is access to a Slack channel where customers can engage in group discussions with developers.

“A lot of people said, ‘We want to be able to offer feedback to [improve] your search results,’” Ramaswamy said. “So we built a community feedback feature that’s released to some people; it’s not released to everybody.”

The way it works, he explained, is users “can say, ‘Hey, this result is not relevant.’ Or, ‘This result is the top result for this query.’”

“This list sort of goes on and on,” Ramaswamy said. “Customers are really a source of lots of ideas.”

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Building a Better Search Engine: Lessons From Neeva’s CEOFrom left to right: Brittany Kaiser, Own Your Data; Sridhar Ramaswamy, Neeva; Ashley Gold, Axios.

Neeva Is A Customer-Guided Product

At Collision, Ramaswamy described what he eventually aims to accomplish with Neeva, and how it differs from the goals of larger search engines like Google.

After speaking with him, I asked if he could clarify what he meant by wanting to “let society figure out” what to do with Neeva.

“I spoke about it more in the spirit of: Google spends a billion, makes a hundred billion. My thing was more: We want to make a couple of billion and let society figure out what it wants to do with the service,” Ramaswamy explained. “It’s more of a general argument around not captive capitalism, but competitive capitalism.”

“The beautiful thing about technology is creating a product for 100 million people is not wildly different from creating a product for a billion people,” he continued. “That’s the magic of scale and technology.”

Being paid for by the people who use it gives Neeva unique flexibility regarding future growth.

Users don’t have as much influence over a product like Google Search, considering they typically don’t pay to use it.

Although even for a free product, Ramasamy argues that Google could be doing much more to give users value.

“My point was a customer-paid product makes it much easier for us to release the product to the whole world [and] still run a profitable company, but not at the kind of obscene scale that I see Facebook or Google operating,” he said. “People always say …  ‘Well, Google gives me free Gmail. Will they stop giving it?’ And my rough answer is: Well, I’m sure, with 100 billion dollars, a bunch of us are going to make really good decisions about how to use that money.”

Ramaswamy said that users “don’t need a monopolist to make that decision and decide they want to give you free Gmail. We don’t need charity from rich companies in order to do this; we need competition, so more of the money that is being spent on this comes to us.”

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Building a Better Search Engine: Lessons From Neeva’s CEOFrom left to right: Brittany Kaiser, Own Your Data; Sridhar Ramaswamy, Neeva; Ashley Gold, Axios.

Will Neeva Keep Its Privacy Promises?

DuckDuckGo, another search engine that touts privacy as its key selling point, was recently a source of controversy after it was discovered to be passing along a minor amount of data to Microsoft.

That stemmed from the deal DuckDuckGo has to use Bing’s search index.

I asked Ramasamy what measures Neeva has in place to keep its zero data collection promises.

“Not serving ads is the biggest measure we have in place. And, we are building our own index,” he said, adding that the company is actively “writing down human ratings and getting data back.”

“We truly want to create a differentiated product,” Ramasamy emphasized. “We started with using the Bing API for search [but] in many ways, I think we would have been better off investing in search from day one. We are a product company, and we want to become a much better search engine. That’s the big differentiator.”

“We’re Making Foundational Investments In Search”

In addition to keeping Neeva ad-free, it will be able to maintain its zero-data promise by building its own search index.

DuckDuckGo, for example, ran into trouble because it’s wholly dependent on Microsoft for search results. Ramasamy says Neeva is the only company outside Google and Bing crawling and indexing the web.

That claim is backed up by an October 2020 report on digital competition by the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust. The report states:

“The high cost of maintaining a fresh index, and the decision by many large webpages to block most crawlers, significantly limits new search engine entrants. Today, the only English-language search engines that maintain their own comprehensive webpage index are Google and Bing.”

He acknowledged that, in response, many ask, “What’s the big deal? What difference does it make?”

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“It lets us do things like creating a much better shopping experience,” Ramasamy explained, noting that, for instance, Neeva “launched Reddit links in search results … because we work with Reddit to get their index. So we have an index of all the web pages they’re serving.”

Ramasamy said that users can receive better-quality results for such queries as, “What are the most interesting Reddit posts that correspond to this query?”

Neeva can “launch features like that, because we’re making foundational investments in search; pretty much the only company outside of Google and Microsoft to be doing this.”

“We increasingly use Bing as a fallback when we cannot answer queries,” Ramasamy acknowledged. However, he said, “Over time, our aspiration is to be able to do more and more of the search results ourselves.”

Neeva’s Sole Focus Is Traditional Web Content (For Now)

With people’s search behavior turning more toward short videos, I asked Ramaswamy if Neeva has any plans to index content like Web Stories or TikTok videos.

For now, Neeva’s sole focus is to solve search for text-based web content.

“Solving for search, especially things like spoken search, is enough of a large problem that we have not quite gone there,” Ramaswamy said. “We have working arrangements. We have partnerships with companies like Twitter and companies like Reddit to better surface their content.

Twitter, he pointed out, “Has a lot of real-time information. So we’re focused on things like that right now and less on video. That would be a fun project to do.”

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Neeva’s Greatest Challenge Is Awareness

As we wrapped up our conversation, I asked Ramaswamy: What’s the most significant hurdle for Neeva to overcome on its journey toward mass adoption?

Ramaswamy’s answer: “It really is about competition.”

The product, he said, is not the issue.

“We have a great product. Compared to ad-supported options … the free Neeva search engine is infinitely better,” Ramaswamy explained. “The place where we struggle is getting the word out, getting people to know us as an option, and getting people to set us as the default search in Safari, which is impossible.

“Demand More Choice”

As Ramaswamy explained, there’s no incentive for a company like Google to innovate if it doesn’t have any challengers.

Companies tend to improve their products when faced with more robust competition. But the only way for more competitors to enter the search market is for consumers to demand more options.

“To me, this is the biggest ask that I would have,” Ramaswamy said, “is to demand more choice, because competition produces better products.”

In turn, he said, “That competition creates better products for us. An incumbent that is doing very well has no incentive to innovate [or] to disrupt.”

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Conversely, over at Neeva, “We have nothing to lose,” Ramaswamy told me. “We’re going to swing for the fences [and make it] easier for people to switch, for them to try Neeva, for them to decide for themselves if they want it or not.”

What’s Next For Neeva?

Before parting ways, I had to ask what we could expect next from Neeva.

“There’s a lot I’ve learned from Google My Business in terms of local businesses – even in terms of Search Console – that I feel confident we can do better,” Ramaswamy said, adding that “GMB, as you know, is a real problem for lots of people. Especially agencies that want to update information for a bunch of companies that they work with.”

The hope, Ramaswamy said, is that “we’ll have better tools. But not yet.”

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