There is no shortage of SEO products and firms out there vying for your money. Some use automated website audit tools that claim they will tell you everything that requires attention with your website so you (or your website company) can fix them to be fully optimized. Everyone is looking to gain a ‘leg up’ on their competition. Website audit tools may sound like a reasonable idea to learn what may need attention on your website, but how credible are their results?
Over the years, we have learned a great deal through reviewing and demoing the many audit tools currently available. We have learned that these reports are very ‘pass / fail’ oriented. What’s more, many of these reports flag very common items as ‘needing immediate attention’. Items such as 302 redirects (a temporary redirect) and URLs in a robots.txt file (a URL that you have marked to instruct the search engines not to index, such as credit applications or print service coupons). Not to mention items some audits get flat out wrong.
A huge problem with website audit tools is that they are designed as a one size fits all solution. They do not understand the intricacies and uniqueness of different industries, such as automotive dealerships. Dealer websites are not your run of the mill five page local plumber websites. They can have thousands of pages and are unique as they have inventory that comes and goes rather quickly with several calls to action, forms, and pop-ups.
Once you have been presented with a website audit report by a firm looking to gain your business, or are thinking of purchasing an audit tool, approach very cautiously. If you see a result where there are 4.5 million total website issues, 2.8 million images are listed as ‘broken’ or 75,000 4xx status codes (basically meaning that the page is not accessible), pause a moment and think. If your website had that many fed flags, don’t you think you would notice many of these issues while navigating your site? The fact is, many platforms and cloud-based servers block these report bots and scrapers because they are nuisance traffic. Traffic that bogs down servers, slows down websites, and has zero chance of converting. Many of these audits, designed with their pass / fail algorithms, hold websites to unattainable standards. Others use vague language like ‘may’ or ‘could’ be better optimized. We have even seen website audits that state in very fine print to guide users to manually exclude specific issues from the site audit report to increase accuracy.
We know SEO is ever changing. In 2019, Google made over 3,200 tweaks to its algorithm. That is 8.5 tweaks per day. We wonder how often these automated analysis tools get updated to reflect these tweaks or for major core updates. We also know many fledgling firms use these tools in an effort to gain quick, easy money by presenting dealers with these reports telling them they will ‘fix everything’.
The best part is, many of them don’t understand much of, if any, of what the data means and simply pass the reports along to the support team of the platform requesting them to ‘fix everything’.
The kicker is, there is usually very little wrong!
Our advice is to approach these reports with a healthy dose of skepticism. Keep in mind that the sky is not falling and leverage the experience and expertise of your website platform. They have been working on the front lines and understand the unique framework of automotive industry websites.