SEO Tips

The Hidden Benefits of Free SEO Audit Tools

By Michael Ferrari | October 17, 2016| SEO, SEO Help

I have an enterprise client that retains me as a consultant. In a nutshell, I help them anytime they have an SEO question.

Before they hired me, this client hired a vendor to help them with some technical implementations. As part of their service agreement, the vendor offered an SEO audit. My client asked me to review this audit for them. They weren’t hiring this company for their SEO services, but they still wanted a trained eye to see if the audit held any water.

The audit was fairly sound, but it suggested tactics of little use. There were some good suggestions within the audit for sure, but it was entry-level stuff that would barely move the needle.

This was all coming from an enterprise-level business, one that serves other enterprise-level businesses. This is a company with the strength to offer innovative, advanced strategies, and it came out of the gate offering basically the kind of thing that comes from a free SEO audit tool found on about a bazillion different websites these days.

This got me thinking. There are plenty of these SEO audit tools out there, right? And some even provide a clear view of a site’s technical strengths and weaknesses. Best of all, most of them are free to use (within reason).

My client could have just as easily used a reputable SEO audit tool and received the same (if not better) information they got from this big agency. In fact, if they used one of these free tools, they would have more information about their site’s technical issues and a better understanding of technical SEO as a whole so that when we spoke next, there would be less of a learning curve when discussing new strategies.

Free SEO Audit Tools: Your New Teaching Assistant

Free audit tools have been around for quite some time. I know because I used some of these tools to train myself on the basics of technical SEO. While there’s a wealth of primers, guides and tools out there, I’ve always found that free tools offer a dirtier, more hands-on approach that takes technical SEO and applies it to a site that lives and breathes on the screen in front of me.

In fact, a lot of the free SEO audit tools served as the gateway drugs that pulled me out of the comfortable, accessible realm of title tag and H1 optimization and pulled me into the grasp of bigger, sexier concepts like crawl budgets, indexation and so on.

If they helped me like this, why couldn’t they help others?

Think of it this way: Clients pay a professional to consult and guide them through the weird, weedy jungle of changing search algorithms and ranking factors. Clients pay them to be not just an expert, but a guide who can help them learn more about this evolving industry. Basically, they’re looking for an expert to teach them more about SEO, so they have a stronger understanding of how it can benefit their business.

SEO audit tools can go a long way in explaining what, to some people, could seem like technical mysticism. As I mentioned earlier, the fact that these tools take what can be confusing practices and applies them to an actual website makes for an extremely practical, accessible learning tool for those who need a casual understanding of technical SEO.

In short: When clients can speak more intelligently about the SEO strategies professionals develop for them, everyone wins.

Things to Keep in Mind

Let’s share a few more words before jumping into some free SEO audit tools to share with clients.

  1. First, it should go without saying that if you are going to open a client’s eyes to the world of free SEO tools, you should first make sure they’re totally onboard with the idea. While most people will likely be excited to learn more about the techniques used to improve their online business, it’s also likely that the whole reason they hired you is so they don’t need to worry much about it. So always feel out the client and make sure you’re on the same page.
  2.  Not all free tools are created equal. The same could actually be said for paid tools, too. The point is to make sure you only recommend a reputable tool that provides only accurate information. This should go without saying, but your recommendations are a representation of your skills, and recommending a bad tool won’t work in your favor.
  3.  Using these free tools is by no means a replacement for a thorough SEO audit. I start literally all my engagements with a comprehensive audit customized to the design and needs of each specific site, and, frankly, you should too. That said, once you’ve done that and have provided the findings to your client, these tools are a nice way to supplement your work — not replace it.

The Right Free SEO Audit Tools for the Job

Below is a list of some of my favorite free tools available on the web. I’ve made this list based on some pretty basic criteria:

  1. They’re totally free (at most, they may require an email address).
  2. They present the information in fairly straightforward terms with a basic explanation and actionable advice.
  3. They’re pretty to look at.

OK, let’s dig in.

Varvy SEO Tool

The Varvy SEO Tool is arguably one of the most comprehensive free audit options out there and it’s a great learning tool for just about anyone, really. Not only does it break potential issues into clean, summarized little pieces, it also provides quick links that expand on each issue, providing a truly useful SEO learning experience. Plus, there’s something for everyone on here, even a seasoned developer with exposure to technical SEO may find something new to learn on here.

SEO Site Check-Up

The SEO Site Check-Up Tool has been one of my favorites ever since I got into this business. It’s great because it not only gives a wealth of data — a decent amount more than your average audit tool, in fact — but it delivers it in a very granular way. This approach makes it easy to focus on (and learn) more specific facets of technical SEO, such as page speed. One of the nicest features, though, is that it provides a “How to Fix” button which gives a quick explanation on how to fix the problem and where you can find more information if needed.

Website Grader

HubSpot’s Website Grader is arguably one of the prettiest, most user-friendly audit tools on the web. Not only is the tool quite thorough in the points it addresses, it’s also beautiful to look at and easy to process. Like any tool worth its weight in bytes, Website Grader not only gives a quick breakdown of the issue but also provides a link to posts and tutorials that will help you remedy the problem. One of the nicer features that puts this tool over the top is the prioritized “What Should I Do Next” list offered at the end of each report.

Honorable Mentions

While the three tools listed above are fantastic, there are plenty of other tools out there that work great as learning resources. The ones listed above strike a great balance between providing useful info and being newbie-friendly, but there are plenty of other tools out there worth considering. Though they tend to be geared towards those with a more technical background, tools like Pingdom and GTMetrix are great for finding and explaining some of the more technical SEO issues.

There’s No Replacement for a Good SEO

While these sites make awesome learning tools for those new to the SEO game, there’s still no substitute for hands-on experience. SEO is a pretty tricky animal and getting it just right takes time and expertise. But with the tools above, you can help demystify it a little bit for clients or anyone else new to the world of search.

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