SEO Audits vs SEO Tests: Why Knowing The Difference Matters

SEO Audits vs SEO Tests: Why Knowing The Difference Matters

Updated on: 19 June 2023

SEO Audits vs SEO Tests: Why Knowing The Difference Matters

Navigating the sea of SEO jargon can prove challenging for most people, and it is common to struggle with certain terms here and there. And as the practice continually evolves, this difficulty may increase unless you nail the basics down first. While ensuring you know what each key concept means to the T sounds pedantic, thoroughly understanding them influences our ability to apply them properly. As such, this blog post explores two of the most fundamental and often confused components of SEO: audits and search testing.

How SEO Testing Works

Search testing applies the scientific method of experimentation in optimizing SEO techniques and marketing messaging. It involves isolating SEO variables, like titles and meta descriptions, and measuring variations in the performance between pages placed in an experimental group and a control group. The pages in the former include those where the isolated variable is altered, while those in the latter have their variable left unchanged. The variables that usually get tested are:

  • Titles
  • Meta tags
  • Content upgrades
  • Conversion optimization
  • Internal linking
  • Readability

After performing a high volume of tests across many pages, brands can expect substantial improvements in their site’s rankings, clicks, and impressions.

This rigorous testing is now indispensable since businesses cannot effectively determine whether doing X to any variable will lead to a neutral, negative, or positive result. Also, keep in mind that the Google search algorithm remains a complex and unknown entity to the point that even its engineers fully understand how it weights the more than 300 variables of SEO.

In addition, since these variables are weighted uniquely depending on the page’s subject matter and industry, it is nigh impossible to make the following key projections:

  • Determining which variables have the most significant impact on search results
  • Manipulating said variables to create a positive impact on rankings

How SEO Audits Work

SEO audits thoroughly review a brand’s web presence to gather a high level of their web pages (performance and architecture-wise) and fix the obstacles that prevent them from ranking higher in search results. The process mainly involves looking for SEO inconsistencies and errors, such as poorly-optimized headers, broken links, non-indexed pages, and more. The problems addressed by SEO audits can be classified into three categories:

1. Poor rankings for crucial keyword content

Google crawlers often overlook pages with excessive broken links and redirects or have insufficient internal links or content volume. Poor page performance can also lead to low-ranking performance.

2. Indexing and crawling

Since Google’s web crawlers are not highly intelligent, they need pages to be structured in a way they can understand, which is where web administrators come in. Page structuring issues typically arise on pages with 404 errors and within XML sitemaps.

3. Search snippet and content performance

The main concern here is Google’s interpretation of a page’s content quality and relevance to searchers. Essentially, brands must put out their best when covering any given topic to rank highly in the long term. The typical signs of unoptimized content include titles and meta tags that are too short or too long, unoptimized headings, and thin pages with low word count.

How do they differ?

SEO is a detail-oriented field that involves a lot of time-consuming and repetitive tasks on top of the continuous effort to build traffic. In other words, there is a lot to manage, which is why many businesses struggle to evenly apply the best practices of SEO.

In contrast to SEO tests, SEO auditing is much more widespread and well-known. Above all, they are about understanding how marketing expenditures lead to the desired results. By measuring these results, making the necessary adjustments, and showing evidence of effective work, marketing teams can justify their efforts and provide a strong argument to further invest in SEO and SEO services.

Where SEO audit and SEO testing share a notable similarity is the difficulty of quantitatively measuring their direct impact because of how much they vary. At the same time, audits are more than simply evaluating variables but rather pinpointing the errors known to detrimentally affect search rankings and the user experience.

Bottom Line

It is no surprise that there is a conflation between SEO audits and SEO tests, given the many paradigm changes in this field and its recency. Moreover, SEO testing is a newly introduced concept still gaining traction. Nowadays, these two terms are often used interchangeably. Yet even though they share some of the same vocabulary, principles, and goals, they are distinct concepts, as discussed above.

In summary, an SEO audit thoroughly assesses the historical performance of a brand’s digital marketing efforts. Meanwhile, SEO testing entails following the scientific method to discover and verify the influence of numerous SEO variables on a site’s search rankings. Both testing and audits are designed to bring clarity to the uncertain practice of SEO.