Perform SEO audit for M&A

Welcome to this in-depth guide on SEO audits in the context of M&A (mergers and acquisitions). If you’re reading this, you’re probably already familiar with the ins and outs of SEO. But how does this all fit into the complex landscape of M&A? We are going to discuss that here.

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The importance of an SEO audit in M&A processes

You already know that SEO is important for the growth and success of a business. But did you know that it also plays a crucial role in M&A? A thorough SEO audit can help you determine the true value of a business to be acquired. It can also protect you from unexpected surprises, such as Google fees or technical problems that could prove costly later.

For companies that rely on the organic channel in obtaining leads, this is one of the most important components in determining the value of the business. Make sure you have the right knowledge to do this.

How heavily does SEO weigh in determining a company’s value?

You would be surprised. In today’s digital age, a company’s SEO health can have a significant impact on its market value. A strong backlink profile, good rankings and healthy organic traffic can significantly increase a company’s rating. On the other hand, SEO problems can be a dealbreaker or lead to a lower acquisition price.

SEO and M&A in a nutshell

Why SEO audits matter for M&A

If you are involved in mergers and acquisitions, you know that due diligence is a big part of the process. But have you ever considered how SEO fits into this? Let’s look at why an SEO audit is an unmissable step in your M&A strategy.

Risk mitigation and value creation

A thorough SEO audit can help you both minimize risk and maximize the value of a potential acquisition. How? By giving you a clear picture of the company’s online health.

Knowing that a company has a solid SEO strategy can increase the value of the acquisition. On the other hand, SEO-related risks, such as Google penalties, can alert you to potential problems.

Identification of hidden opportunities and pitfalls

An SEO audit can also shed light on opportunities you may have overlooked. Perhaps the company has some high-quality backlinks that can be exploited, or perhaps there are areas that can be improved for quick gains. But beware: it can also alert you to pitfalls such as poor site architecture or mobile optimization issues.

How many MQLs does the company generate without investment in marketing?

This is a crucial question. Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) generated organically can be a strong indicator of a company’s SEO strength. If a company can generate a steady stream of MQLs without investing heavily in marketing, that speaks volumes about the effectiveness of their SEO. It also means you may need to invest less in customer acquisition after the acquisition.

Preliminary steps for an SEO audit

Before diving deep into the data and analytics, there are some preliminary steps you should take to ensure that your SEO audit goes smoothly.

Documentation and access rights

The first thing to do is to make sure you have all the necessary documentation and access rights. This includes access to Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and any other SEO tools the company uses. Without this access, you are flying blind, and you don’t want that.

Also specifically request access to past years’ results to determine traffic trends. If there is a downward trend in traffic and positions, you can inquire about this with the selling party.

Assembling an audit team

Who is actually going to conduct this audit? Do you have an in-house team of SEO experts, or do you need to bring in outside consultants? Assembling the right team is crucial to the success of your audit. Make sure you have people on board with experience in different aspects of SEO – from technical analysis to content strategy.

Technical aspects of the audit

Now that you’ve done your prep work, it’s time to dive into the technical details. This is where you can really judge the health of a website.

How much was invested in the technical SEO?

Technical SEO can be a costly undertaking, depending on the current state of the website. Do you know how much the company has invested in technical SEO so far? This can give you an idea of how seriously they take SEO and what you may need to invest more after the acquisition.

Is the website custom built?

A custom-built website can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it offers more flexibility in terms of SEO optimization. On the other hand, it can be more complex to manage and update. This is something to keep in mind during your audit.

How long would it take to build quality engineering?

This is the big question. Depending on the current state of the technical SEO, it may take several weeks to months to build everything up to a level you find acceptable. This is important information for your post-acquisition timeline and budget.

This period must also be factored in, along with the resources that must be invested to achieve the same result (if at all possible). Things that are often less considered in this.

  • A/b testing of the UX design.
  • Things built custom (designs, links to APIs, interfaces, etc.).
  • The ongoing iteration to get to the right result with the website.

Content audit

Content is king, we all know that. But what about the content of the company you are considering acquiring? Let’s see.

Quality and relevance of content

The first step in a content audit is to assess quality and relevance. Are the blog posts well written? Do they offer value to the reader? This can give you a good idea of the company’s content strategy.

Duplicate content and plagiarism control

Nothing can hurt a site’s SEO performance faster than duplicate content or, worse, plagiarism. Be sure to check for duplicate content within the site and also for possible copy from external sources.

How long would it take to build the same content?

Once you have an idea of content quality, ask yourself: how long would it take to create a similar level of content? This is important for your post-acquisition planning.

How much was invested in the content?

Does the company have an in-house content team or do they use freelancers? How much have they spent on content creation so far? This can help you determine the value of their content library.

How well does content perform in Google?

Are their pages well ranked? Do they have a healthy flow of organic traffic? This can give you a good idea of the effectiveness of their content strategy.

Backlink profile analysis

Backlinks are the backbone of any solid SEO strategy. But not all backlinks are created equal. Make sure you really look at the quality of all the backlinks obtained by the company over the years. Also review the chronological order of backlinks obtained.

Quality and diversity of inbound links

Look at the quality of backlinks. Do they come from reputable sites? Is there a good mix of domains linking to the site? This can tell you a lot about the robustness of their backlink profile.

Potential risks such as toxic backlinks

Toxic backlinks can harm a site more than help it. Be sure to do a thorough check to identify any malicious links that could lead to a Google penalty.

How long would it take to build this backlink profile?

Building a strong backlink profile takes time and effort. Estimate how long it would take to build a similar profile from scratch. This is important information for your post-acquisition strategy.

What is the price of the backlink profile if we purchase it?

If you are considering purchasing backlinks to improve your profile, what would it cost? This can help you assess the financial value of the existing backlink profile. Don’t just consider the actual cost, consider the effort required in getting all the backlinks.

Competitive Analysis

In the world of SEO, it is not enough to just look at your own performance; you must also understand how you compare to the competition. Let’s take a closer look at that and how it compares to taking over an organization.

Note that your “real” (offline) competitors are not always the competitors who are taking the most traffic away from you in Google. Often these include news websites within the industry or even Wikipedia, for example. Take this into account in the competitive analysis you do.

Market position relative to competitors

Where does the company stand in comparison to its competitors? Do they have higher domain authority? Better organic traffic? This can give you a good idea of how much work is needed to achieve or maintain a leading position in the market.

Usually, in this case, I do a full market analysis that maps the SEO of all major competitors.

Opportunities for market expansion

Are there niches or segments where competition is weak? These are potential areas for market expansion. A thorough competitive analysis can help you identify these opportunities.

Financial considerations

SEO is not just about rankings and traffic; it also has a direct impact on the bottom line. Here are some financial aspects to consider.

Cost of solving SEO problems

Every website has its problems, and fixing them costs money. Do you have an idea of what it would cost to fix any SEO-related problems on the website? This should be factored into your financial planning.

ROI calculations for SEO investments

SEO is a long-term investment, and you need to understand the ROI. What is the expected return on your SEO efforts? This can help you decide whether the acquisition makes financial sense (at least from an SEO standpoint).

Also consider in what ways the other party’s website complements your own. When you have two websites in the market, you can take care of a few things.

  1. It creates the possibility of obtaining 2 positions in the top 10 on the most important search terms.
  2. It creates the opportunity for the websites to link to each other.
  3. It creates the possibility of redirecting the websites to each other (301), thus strengthening one website’s positions within Google.

How expensive would it be to build the same SEO results with a new website?

Suppose you are starting from scratch; what would it cost to achieve the same SEO results as the company you are considering buying? This can give you an idea of the true value of their SEO efforts.

Again, take into consideration how long it will take to rebuild all of this.

How long would it take to achieve this?

SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. How long would it take to achieve similar results if you start from scratch? This is crucial information for your strategic planning.

Legal considerations

SEO is not just a matter of good content and strong backlinks; there are also legal aspects you should not ignore. Let’s take a closer look at those.

Compliance with search engine guidelines

It is essential to check that the website meets the guidelines of search engines such as Google. Non-compliance can lead to penalties, which can seriously impact site visibility and traffic.

Of particular interest is the extent to which blackhat SEO has been applied within the SEO strategy and how structurally this has been done over the period of time this has been worked on.

Potential legal risks such as copyright violations

Does the company have all rights to the content, images and other media used on the site? Copyright violations can not only lead to legal problems but also damage the company’s reputation. Be sure to research this thoroughly.

Conclusion and recommendations

Now that we have gone through all the important aspects of the SEO audit, it is time to summarize the findings and look ahead.

Summary of key findings

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the website? How does it compare to the competition? And what are the financial and legal considerations? A good summary gives you a clear overview of the current state of affairs.

Post-acquisition action plan

Based on the audit, you can now create a post-acquisition action plan. This can range from solving technical SEO problems to implementing a new content strategy or addressing legal issues.

And there you have it, a complete overview of what to consider when conducting an SEO audit in an M&A context. With this information, you are well equipped to make an informed decision. So, what do you think? Are you ready to take the next step? I’m ready if you are. Feel free to send a message via the contact form.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
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My clients give me a 5.0 on Google out of 75 reviews

I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 22 March 2024. The last update of this article was on 22 March 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.