Something that comes up often in my discussion with others in our industry regarding audit work is how many people who do SEO audits spend dozens, possibly even hundreds, of hours on an audit, and then deliver an 80-page or 100-page (or more) document to their clients.
In these discussions (and in an occasional Twitter rant), I’ll mention that the typical audit I produce is between 15 and 20 pages with extreme situations resulting in, at most, 30 pages. Some people have said that’s about where they’re at, so I know I’m not alone in how much I put into an audit from a written perspective. Yet what exactly is it that goes into those couple dozen pages?
Note: I wrote a somewhat similar article more than a year ago. This time, however, I want to build on those concepts covered and go even further in explaining the key differences between strategic and tactical audits and discuss more of why this is important.
Strategic Vs. Tactical
Something I emphasize when I’m training others in SEO implementation or the audit process is the importance and value of grasping the concept of and differences between strategic audits and tactical audits.
Taking the time as you’re performing an audit and then as you’re doing the write-up of your findings and recommendations to see where something might be strategic and something else might be tactical offers many benefits. It really is well worth the effort to learn this process and make use of it. Everybody wins when you do.
Not Everyone’s Audit Cup of Tea
Before I go into sharing with you why I believe there is value in splitting out strategic and tactical into two separate audit processes, I do need to say that there may be reasons why you wouldn’t want to do that. Perhaps you enjoy doing it all in one audit. Maybe that’s the business model that you find works best for you. Maybe you believe it’s not right to do it the way I’m going to discuss here.
Whatever the reason, if you do feel that way, especially after at least reading through my reasoning, then by all means, continue to do so. You do what works for you, I’ll do what works for me, and we’ll all be happy.
Sound Business Benefits
When you separate out strategic vs. tactical concepts during an audit process, it allows you to achieve a number of valuable objectives. These include (but may not be limited to):
- Reduction in the Review Process
- Reduction in Shiny Object Syndrome
- Reduction in Rabbit Hole Economics
- Increase in Focus Quality
- Increase in Clarity of Priorities
- Improvement in Client Adaption
- Improvement in Client Understanding
- Improvement in Client Appreciation
- Increased Upsell Opportunity
As you can see, that’s a lot of benefits I’m claiming can come from this one realization about the work we do. Well, let me see if I can help validate why each of those is a true benefit and on enough of a scale that you’ll at least take a serious look at how you go about the audit process yourselves.
Reduction in the Review Process
The more you understand what is strategic and what is tactical, then when you are performing a strategic audit, you’ll be able to completely bypass having to spend any time on many other aspects of the SEO evaluation, decision making, and recommendation process. You’ll see that what you might have previously been focused on is really tactical and doesn’t belong in a strategic audit.
Reduction in Shiny Object Syndrome
By focusing only on strategic factors, you’re less likely to find yourself being enamored by things that aren’t necessary or paying attention to considerations you may not even need to be looking at for various other reasons, as well.
Reduction in Rabbit Hole Economics
Building on the shiny object concept, one of the biggest benefits to splitting out strategic from tactical SEO thinking is you’ll be much less prone to rabbit hole economics, which is the notion that the more you dig into something, the more likely you’re going to dig much further than you anticipated when you bid the contract. Now that’s still possible in my model, but it’s much less likely because strategic concepts, factors, and considerations during an SEO audit are much more resilient as far as only needing to examine a sub-set of data.
And believe me, it’s quite expensive, in the end, to go down most rabbit holes in our analysis work because every hour expended digging deeper into things you ultimately don’t need causes you to end up working many more hours on a single audit than you should be getting paid for at this stage.
Imagine, from the initial page volume I mentioned at the opening of this article, how many more hours it would take to produce a 70, 80, or 100-page audit than it does to produce 15 or 20 pages. That’s huge! Crazy huge!
Increase in Focus Quality
The more you focus on lesser considerations, the greater decrease you will find in the quality of your focus. Spending too many hours looking over reams of data or examining and then recommending things that belong in a tactical audit will, quite often, result in blurry vision, lost enthusiasm, confusion, distractions…and the list goes on.
Believe me. I know. Because I used to be a “do it all in one audit” person. So I know from direct, painful experience.
Increase in Clarity of Priorities
Since you gain quality when you have the ability to focus on your audit work, you naturally then have a clearer mind during the process, and that, in turn, means you’re most likely going to have a much better understanding about what issues need to be considered priorities. That’s a very big deal in the audit process because as I’ve discussed in my audit articles in the past, and really showed where it was put to use in the Panda One Year Case Study I posted at the beginning of the month, prioritization is crucial to helping clients get the best possible results.
Improvement in Client Adaption
When I present a document that is laser focused on strategic factors and considerations, clients are much less likely to be overwhelmed by the volume of information. Sure, you may initially wow them with how thorough you appear to have been, or you may impress them with the belief they’re getting so much value for their buck, but, ultimately, what I’ve found countless times from clients who previously got 90-page audits from others is they communicated appreciation on the surface.
Then they left and ignored the majority of the recommendations because they were overwhelmed by it. They thought, “There’s no way we have time to put all of this to use,” or “We can’t afford to spend all that time,” which then turns into, “Let’s just do what we can and hope for the best.”
STOP THE PRESSES OMG
Let me stop you dead in your tracks right now. One of the biggest tragedies I’ve seen in the audit consulting I do is a prospective client coming to me after their site got hammered by Panda or Penguin and hearing them tell me, “We need an audit. Here’s the 90-page audit so-and-so did last year. Maybe you can make use of it.”
Really. That happens a lot. And that’s how I know, for a fact, that so many site owners end up NOT doing the work you’ve spent countless hours producing. It’s not that they don’t like you or that they don’t care. It’s because they get overwhelmed by it, and their capacity to take action becomes short-circuited from information overload.
And a year later, they come to me to help them fix the problems. Now that doesn’t automatically mean they’re wasting their time paying me for what you already did. Maybe what you put in that document really was the best answer to their needs. Maybe not. I’ve seen both on the very few times I’ve even scanned one of those SEO War and Peace books.
Yet all I know (and care about) is these site owners have come to me because whatever they DID implement from recommendations someone previously provided them “sort of” worked or worked for a while until one of the many Google updates caught up with them.