Thanks to the ever-growing competition in the digital marketing space, you need to remain at the top of your game. SEO is a major contributor to any website’s success and is one factor that cannot be ignored.
SEO is very critical for the success of any online business. In fact, about 61% of marketers say that SEO is their primary focus for inbound marketing. You may have built your website well but if the SEO is not up to the mark, your website will not be able to compete.
To make sure that your SEO is at its best, you need to conduct a technical SEO audit. This will give you an idea of how your website ranks and what you need to do to improve your rankings. It may sound difficult and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be.
You can easily conduct a technical SEO audit in a short amount of time. And that short amount of time can have a big impact. Before diving deeper into the topic, let’s first take a look at what exactly a technical SEO audit is.
What is a Technical SEO Audit?
You need to ensure that your content and website rank high in the search engine result pages (SERPs) on Google. The days of keyword stuffing and backlinking from micro-sites are gone. You need to up your game and get your SEO strategy in line with the latest developments.
A technical SEO audit is a process during which you check the technical aspects of your website’s SEO. It basically checks the health of a website and finds out what fixes might be needed to improve it.
Search engine bots crawl the web to find pages and websites. The bots then check your pages for the different ranking factors before ranking your website in the search results.
SEO is changing constantly and your competitors are keeping up with the changes too. For this reason, it is important for you to remain up-to-date to remain relevant. If you don’t assess your website’s health, you may end up losing traffic to your competitors.
As the search algorithms and technology change frequently, it is a good practice to perform mini-audits monthly. You must also ensure that you do conduct a full-fledged technical SEO audit every 4-5 months.
Factors Affecting Your SEO
The main factors that affect your website’s SEO can be broadly classified into three different categories.
- Technical: This includes technical aspects such as hosting, indexing, page loading speed.
- On-page: This includes factors such as site content, target keywords, and their related terms.
- Off-Page: This section includes the backlinks and outside references to your website from other websites.
You need to conduct audits of each of these factors at regular intervals. This will ensure that you’re always up-to-date with the changing conditions in the industry.
One of the most important factors to be kept in mind is the mobile-readiness of your website. As about 60% of all searches happen on mobile, Google has started giving more importance to mobile-friendly websites.
Now that we know what technical SEO audit is and what parameters are included in it, let’s take a look at how you can conduct one.
1. Start With A Crawl
The crawlers help you find errors such as broken links, poor images, page title issues, and bad keywords. They can also help you identify duplicate content, excess redirects, and unlinked pages.
You can also take a look at the Google Search Console to see your crawl budget. Your crawl budget is essentially the number of pages that Google is crawling on your website and how frequently it is doing that.
Looking at your crawl budget will give you an idea of how the Google bot is crawling your website.
To make the most of your crawl budget, you need to do the following:
- Remove Duplicate Content: Duplicate pages can easily waste your crawl budget. You can use tools such as Screaming Frog to find duplicate pages. These pages usually have the same title and meta description tags as well. Remove as many duplicate pages as possible. However, if you need to keep them, block them from the search engine bots.
- Provide URL Parameters: Google may end up crawling the same page twice, with URL parameters and without them as if they are two pages.You can add URL parameters to the Google Search Console. This can instruct Google that it is crawling the same page and not two of them.
- Fix Redirects: Every single redirect that the Google bot follows is a waste of crawl budget. Additionally, if there are loads of 301 or 302 redirects, the bots may stop following them and may not reach the destination page. You need to reduce the number of redirects during technical SEO audit to optimize your crawl budget.
Search on Google
Another thing that you can do is manually search for your website on Google. To do this, you can go to Google and type “site:domain name” and search to see the results. This will show you how many of your pages appear in the search results.
Websites like SEO SiteCheckup give you what is called the SEO score of your website. This score is essentially a score out of 100 that shows where you’re doing well and where you’re lagging behind.
This score can help you figure out what you should be doing next in your technical SEO audit.
Image via SEO SiteCheckup
The checkup can help you figure out which are your most commonly used keywords. It can also help you find broken links and coding errors. You can also check whether sitemap and robots.txt are available for your website.
If there’s malware or phishing activity on your website, that is taken into account while generating the score.
2. Review Sitemap
The sitemap of your website is extremely important. It can info the search engines about your website’s structure and also helps them discover new pages.
It is essential to have a sitemap for getting your SEO strategy right. For this reason, you must check it during the technical SEO audit.
Make sure that your sitemap is:
- Clean: Your sitemap must not have any errors in it whatsoever. Redirects and URLs that can block indexing should be removed. If they are not, the search engines may end up ignoring your sitemap.
- Concise: The sitemap should be fairly concise. If it has more than 50,000 URLs, Google won’t crawl it. For this reason, you should keep it short and include all the important pages in it.
- Up-To-Date: All your latest content must be added to your sitemap as and when it is published. This can help the search engines discover the new content faster.
- Registered in Google Search Console: You must let Google know about your sitemap. This can be done in two ways: manually and by specifying its location in robots.txt.
3. Check The Browseable Versions of Your Website
You need to make sure that only one “version” of your website can be browseable.
If it has different versions of itself then you’ll end up sending mixed signals to the search engine. The crawlers will be confused about which version is the right one.
If the search engine is confused about the versions of your website, it won’t know how to show it to the people. This can drastically affect your search engine rankings.
This sort of an error can occur due to mobile and desktop versions fighting it out or maybe due to duplicate HTTP vs HTTPS versions. The technical SEO audit should make sure that only one of the versions of your website is browseable.
It is a great idea to make sure that your website uses HTTPS. Even Google is making sure that searchers know which sites are secure and which ones aren’t. You can now find “Not Secure” label next to the websites that use HTTP.
4. Check Internal Links
A logical hierarchy in your website can work wonders for your search rankings. For this reason, it is necessary to check its internal links as well as external ones.
Web pages can also be deleted or moved which can result in a broken link as well.
Here are a few things you can check about your internal linking during the technical SEO audit.
- Click Depth: Click depth shows you how many clicks away is a particular page from the homepage. You must ensure that this number is as low as possible. Ideally, it should be below 3. To find this out, you can use WebSite Auditor and head to Site Structure and then Pages. One of the columns will show you the click depth.
- Broken Links: Broken links can waste your crawl budget. They can even confuse visitors and are thus bad for your website. You can check out the All Resources dashboard in WebSite Auditor and then click on Internal Resources. Sort the list by the HTTP Status Code to find the broken links.
- Orphan Pages: These are the pages that aren’t linked to any page of your website and can be hard for search engines to find. You can find orphan pages by going to Site Structure in WebSite Auditor and then to Pages. Click on the Rebuild Project option and at step 2, click on Search for Orphan Pages.
5. Test Site Speed
Your site speed is an extremely important parameter when it comes to SEO. People don’t like to wait for the websites to load and the longer it takes, there are more chances that the visitors might bounce.
So no technical SEO audit is complete without testing your website’s speed.
In fact, if your website takes 5 seconds to load, the probability of bounce increases by 90%.
Image via Think With Google
Google is soon going to take site speed into account while deciding your rankings. For this reason, it is important that you check your site speed and reduce it. You can use Google PageSpeed Insights for this.
It will show you how fast your website is loading and how it is performing against other websites. The best part about this tool is that it shows you what you can do to improve the speed as well.
6. Check HTTPS Content
Image via RankRanger
About 70% of the results on page 1 of Google search are all HTTPS. If your website is already using HTTPS then you must look for common HTTPS issues in your technical SEO audit.
You must check for:
- Links, Canonicals, and Redirects: All of the links on your website along with the canonicals and redirects must point to the HTTPS pages. You may have HTTP to HTTPS redirects on your website but it’s not ideal to take users through redirects. The redirects can also cause a problem for crawling. This is because you’ll waste the crawl budget each time the Google bot hits a redirect.
- Mixed Content: The mixed content issue comes up when secure pages load unsecured content like images and videos. This can reduce the security of the page. It can even prevent the browsers from loading the entire page or the unsecured content. To check for this issue, in WebSite Auditor, go to Site Audit. You’ll need to find the HTTPS Pages With Mixed Content Issues option and check it to find the mixed content.
You can also check out the complete list of non-HTTPS resources on your website through WebSite Auditor. Check out the Internal Resources and sort by the URLs.
You’ll be able to see the HTTP pages first. For each HTTP page, check the full list of pages that link to it. It also shows the location of the link so you can easily fix things.
7. Use Analytics to Compare Site Metrics
You need to check if your analytics service is reporting accurate live data. If it is doing it right, then the code has been installed correctly.
This needs to be checked during the technical SEO audit. The tracker code for Google Analytics needs to be placed above the header of each web page.
Once the service is up, you can check the data against the results from the “site:domain name” results of the search.
The number of pages should be similar in both the cases. If the number isn’t similar, it means that some pages aren’t accepting crawl requests properly.
Google Analytics also helps you check your bounce rate. You need this rate to be as low as possible.
A high bounce rate indicates that people aren’t finding whatever they were looking for on your website. To reduce the rate, you need to optimize your content and page loading speed among other things.
You can also use the MozBar to check for the SEO details of different pages of your website during the technical SEO audit. It can highlight the different types of links such as follow, no-follow, external, and internal.
Image via Google Chrome
The MozBar also shows the Page Authority of each page. This is a number between 1 and 100 that shows you how well the page can rank on the SERPs.
Such a tool can make your audit process easier.
8. Do a Backlink Audit
Backlinks are essential for the success of your website thus it is no surprise that they are a part of the technical SEO audit. They show the search engines how valuable the content on your website is for the users.
However, crawlers don’t just look for hyperlinks in off-site SEO.
The Google bot also checks your website for brand mentions. For this reason, it’s important to know what is going on and off your website.
You can perform a backlink audit by using tools such as Ahrefs. It can give you an idea of the types of backlinks that are going to your website.
It also helps you figure out which areas need to have more high-value links. You can even check the number of backlinks your competitors have and try to beat them.
You should also check out the keywords your competitors are ranking for. To do this, you can use SEMrush and see the backlinks that are going to your competitors for the relevant keywords.
This way, you can compare your backlinks to theirs and plan on how to start ranking above them.
You must also check out which social media platforms are frequented by your target audience. Those who like your content may want to link to it.
This can help you generate more backlinks. Social media can also help you in generating more brand awareness which, in turn, can help with searches with your brand’s name.
Social media plays a big role in your SEO efforts and you must not neglect it. It helps you increase traffic and mentions. The best part is that it is even simpler than creating a link-building campaign.
9. Re-Crawl The Website
Once the issues that were identified in the technical SEO audit have been fixed, you can ask Google to re-crawl the website.
This final step of the technical SEO audit will ensure that the changes that you’ve made are taken into account with immediate effect.
To do this, you need to head to Google Search Console and head to Crawl and tap on Fetch As Google. You’ll need to enter the URL that needs to be re-crawled and tap on Fetch. Once the Google bot fetches your page, you will need to click on Submit to Index to request Google to re-crawl it.
You have the option of submitting the exact URL or the URL along with all the linked pages. In the latter case, Google will use the URL as a starting point for the content indexation. It will follow all the internal links to crawl your website then.
A regular technical SEO audit of your website is critical for the success of your SEO strategy. Frequently testing all of the technical parameters for errors can help you spot and rectify them easily.
You must ensure that your website loads quickly and the internal linking is done well. Broken links and unnecessary redirects must be spotted and removed.
A backlink audit can also help you figure out which parts of the website need to be pushed further. It can also help you figure out the backlinks of your competitors.
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in sales funnels, targeted traffic, and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.