It’s likely you’ve seen the SEO company offers for a free consultation. Since these website reviews are free, one is hardly in the position to require that certain items be reviewed. Potential clients can make a few requests, however, as these audits should reflect a custom view of a company’s web presence. Let’s take a look at a few topics that would be helpful to see on a free consult, and the value that can be derived from them.

A Look Into the Code

HTML titles and meta descriptions should get some examination here. Often an SEO company will be looking for truncated or non-existent tags and also for duplicates; as each page should have a unique title and description assigned to it. SEO companies will also be looking for barriers to indexing such as no-follow tags and additional issues like javascript that can slow the loading of a page. There are many other issues that can be included here; such as determining if the site has any redirects and how they are applied, plus there should be a check to see if there are 404 errors coming up for the site, and what those mean in the larger scheme of things (some 404s are less troublesome than others). The SEO company should also discover if the site has a custom 404 page created to ensure an optimal user experience.

Some website audits go deeper than this, but often a deep look inside code is not included in a free consultation. A look inside the Robots.txt file, the .htaccess file, the XML sitemap and other files may not be included in a free review. These may contain information that can point to issues affecting indexing and ranking in search engines. If there is one place where a prospective client should ask the SEO company to spend the most time on the free analysis, it’s in this section. It’s okay to ask for a closer look at these issues especially if there is a suspicion that various key files were altered by a previous developer or digital firm.

Content Review

Here the broad use of the word content is warranted, versus the usual meaning which is on-page related. A free review by an SEO company may delve into the presence or absence of ALT tag attributes, plus the variety of content on a site. Does the site offer relevant and compelling images and video? What about a diverse presentation of copy, polls, blog posts, podcasts, etc? The next level of this content review can often touch upon scheduling content with an editorial calendar and the benefits of doing this.

Usability Analysis – Mobile Emphasis

Not all free consultations offer this analysis, but some SEO companies, especially today, like to include this section. With Google’s increased emphasis on user experience, especially for mobile, it’s more important than ever to get usability right. Plan on the free audit just touching on a few high level areas that may need addressing, like responsiveness of the mobile site, page speed, and mobile site navigation issues.

Social Media Review

Today social media and organic search are inextricably linked. What a company does on social is going to resonate throughout its web presence. This is one of the areas where a prospective client should ask for recommendations from the SEO company, if they aren’t going to be included in the free audit. See what the SEO company has to say about creating content for social, re-purposing content for social, and selecting channels for distributing content on social networks.

And here’s another viewpoint: Free consultations can only tell you so much. Consider purchasing a full site audit. What is important to receive in that full audit is a prioritized list of items that need correcting. That way you and your developer can dive in and work on the items that need greatest attention, and that will provide more rapid ROI. Many people like to get a full site audit right away so they can understand exactly what they need to do to get their site able to compete in Google and across the Web. Organically’s audits aren’t free – but they offer tremendous value because they go beyond the basics and provide in-depth analysis that can help you win online.