Why is an SEO Technical Audit Important?
An SEO technical audit is akin to doing a regular check-up on your website. It helps you determine what’s working, what needs improvement, and where any critical fixes might be necessary. To be successful online, your website needs to function properly and be accessible for both the search engines and your website visitors.
Websites are complicated. They are designed and created to engage the visitor but they must first rank well on search engines for common user-queries. Inevitably, the Internet will continue to evolve much faster than your website. Google’s algorithms are now AI influenced and seem to change daily. It often feels impossible to keep up with what Google wants.
SEO has become more and more complex but remains one of the most crucial elements necessary for online success. It’s important to remember that SEO is not a “set-and-forget methodology.” In fact, there isn’t one way to ensure your website will rocket to the top of Google and stay there.
Google, the Internet, and even your competitors’ websites keep evolving. This means that anything can change and change can happen quickly. Whether done externally or internally, an SEO technical Audit is a valuable tool to ensure your website evolves along with them.
How Often Should You Do an SEO Technical Audit?
Comprehensive SEO Audits should be conducted regularly, at least once per year; however, every six months is highly recommended. Some professionals like to run audits quarterly and may even conduct mini-audits monthly.
Here are some indications that an SEO technical audit may be necessary:
When Rankings, Traffic, and/or Conversions Decrease
If you notice a sudden decrease, or a gradual change in rankings, site traffic, or conversions, that’s a good indicator it may be time to conduct an SEO Technical Audit.
So many elements can affect your website performance and rankings can drop suddenly or gradually over time. As soon as you notice a consistent decrease, it’s time to look into why. It could be on-page or off-page elements that are affecting your results. Conducting a thorough SEO audit is a great way to determine why there has been a change and point out any fixes that might need to be made.
Before/After Making a Big Change to Functionality or Hosting Environments
Conducting an SEO Technical Audit before you make a major change to your website can help determine if any other changes need to be made in tandem. You can think of this as preemptive discovery. In addition, it is a good practice to conduct a full SEO/Website audit after you’ve made a big change. A big change can be a new feature, a change in plugins, a change in the hosting environment, etc.
When You Notice Poor Page Load Speed
Page Speed seems to be a common theme on the tongues of SEO professionals. This is because website visitors are impatient. Remember back in the early days, back when Netscape Navigator was the browser of choice and we all connected via dial-up connections? Back then, people expected to wait minutes for a website to load. Now, you’re hard-pressed to make a visitor wait seconds.
- Nearly 50% of users will leave a website (and won’t return) if it takes more than 3 seconds to load
If your site is not performing at optimal speed, it’s time for an SEO audit.
Regularly Scheduled Audits
Ideally, you’re running SEO audits on a regular basis so that you can preemptively strike before a major problem arises. SEO and search engines are in a constant state of flux, which means things can change at any given time. Knowing your numbers and your stats inside out can help you determine when there’s a potential problem on the horizon.
Who Should Conduct a Website/SEO Audit?
Check your spam folder and you’re likely to have multiple emails advertising SEO audits. Generally, these are used as a sales pitch to earn your business or get you to sign up for something you likely don’t need. But, there’s something to be said for having an outside set of eyes looking in.
We recommend having your SEO technical audit completed by one of the following:
Internal SEO Professional
Your hired SEO professional should be running and sharing their regular SEO audit results. Good and experienced SEO professionals want to run regular audits (yearly, quarterly or even monthly) so they can have a good handle on what is working, what needs improvement and flag items that require an immediate fix.
You shouldn’t be concerned that your hired SEO professional will skew results to make their work look good. An experienced SEO professional knows that nothing in the realm of SEO is a constant and there is always room for more improvement. Running their own internal SEO audit helps them to do their job more proficiently.
External SEO Professionals
Having an external organization take a look at your website and SEO is also an option. In fact, even some SEO professionals will outsource the SEO technical audit every-so-often, as a second set of eyes with a different focus just might be able to uncover other issues.
An external SEO technical audit is also often a part of the quoting process when you shop around for SEO services.
What Elements Should Be Included in an SEO Audit?
SEO Audits are more complex and comprehensive than regular reporting. An audit is meant to uncover vulnerabilities, successes, errors, and areas for improvement, whereas your regular marketing reports are generally performed to showcase key performance indicators.
15 Elements To Be Included in an SEO Technical Audit
1. Crawl Errors
A crawl report is a quick way to determine how your website is functioning from a technical standpoint. It shows you if there are places where a search engine is getting stuck or if there are page errors or crawl errors. You can automate this process with a number of SEO tools such as Screaming Frog or SEMRush. You can then begin to fix any of the errors or warnings in an effort to ensure your website is free of errors and as optimized as possible.
2. URL Status Code Errors
Let’s face it, it is difficult to check up on every page of a website regularly. Sometimes you don’t know a page is broken, or how long it has been broken. A regular SEO technical audit can help you assess broken pages and links. You can get a list of status code errors from your crawl report or right within Google Search Console. Any URL errors such as 404s will show up here. It is important you fix these errors as soon as they arise.
3. XML Sitemap Review
The XML Sitemap acts as a map to show Google and other search engines what pages are on your site. It should include all pages within your website. Make sure every page within your sitemap returns 200 status codes and proper canonicals. This helps to ensure you are not wasting your crawl budget on broken links and removed pages.
4. Site Load & Speed Testing
It is important to regularly check how fast your website loads. According to SEMRush, over 23% of websites have slow page load times. Poor site speed can affect SEO and other key metrics. You can check your site speed by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool.
5. Mobile-Friendly Test
It’s likely your website is mobile-friendly, and if it isn’t yet, it ought to be. It’s still important to run your website through a mobile test such as Google’s Mobile Friendly test.
6. Keyword Cannibalization
If pages within your website are all competing for the same keyword, this can cause confusion for the search engines and also reduce your opportunity for top results. Sometimes, Google and other search engines will even decide which page is best, which may not be the page you want your visitors to land on. By using Google Search Console’s performance report, you can identify pages that are competing for the same keywords. You should then determine canonical issues or consolidate pages.
7. Review of Robots.txt
A regular review of Robots.txt allows you to see the instructions you are providing to the search engine bots. For instance, if there are pages you do not want the search engines to spider and display, they will show up on this report. This is why it is essential to regularly review the robots.txt file. You can ensure you are only disallowing the pages you actually do not want Google to see. Sometimes developers block a page they are working on and forget to unblock that page or even the website. If you notice pages are not ranking, this is the first place you should check.
8. Google Site Search
Performing a Google search of your website will help you determine how Google displays your indexed pages. Go to google and search for “site:yourwebsite.com”
9. Duplicate Meta Data
Unfortunately, it is common for large websites and e-commerce sites to have duplicate meta Titles and Descriptions, or to be missing meta data. This can occur when you allow an SEO system to create meta data for you based on parameters, or you’ve copied descriptions from one page to the next. A detailed crawl report can alert you to issues with metadata. It’s a time-consuming process to fix, but worth it.
10. Meta Length Review
Ensuring your pages’ meta descriptions are the proper length may not help your SEO but it can help your click-through rate. The meta description character length has increased to 320 characters, which now gives you plenty of space for your keywords, specs, and a call to action.
11. Check for Broken Links
Any broken link, whether internal or external, can be bad for SEO and user experience, which can lead to lower rankings. Use your crawl report to identify any links that are broken and fix them as soon as possible.
12. Perform a Backlink Audit
Use a tool such as the popular Ahrefs to identify websites that are linking to your content. By assessing your link profile you can identify areas you can focus on with your link building and you can even assess your competitors’ backlinks and work to outperform them.
13. Duplicate Content Review
Over half of all websites have duplicate content issues, either internally or with external websites. Use a service such as Copyscape to run regular duplicate content checks. Duplicate content can cause confusion for the search engines and negatively impact your SEO.
14. Review H1s
Every page of your website should have one H1 header. Your crawl report can alert you to pages that have multiple H1s. An H1 is read by the search engines as the main point of the page. Your heading hierarchy should include one H1 and then can include multiple H2 subheaders and even H3 subheaders.
15. Determine Underperforming Pages/Content
The above metrics can help you determine underperforming or error-ridden pages and content on your website. From there, an improvement plan should immediately be put into place.
Ensuring you are regularly auditing technical SEO elements and content both on-page and off-page is an essential part of any SEO strategy. While SEO professionals may have their favorite tools to get the job done, they all agree that it is essential to perform an SEO technical audit regularly.
Consistency is key. If you are consistent with evaluating your technical SEO and website, and making fixes, your site will continue to gain strength in the search engines. Taking an hour or two to perform a regular SEO technical audit is well worth the effort. It will provide a road map for improvements to be made while ensuring your website is up-to-date.
Best practices, market trends, competition, and search engine algorithms are always in flux. Make sure your website is keeping up.
If you still have questions about an SEO technical audit or you would like more information, please call our SEO experts here at 1st on the List at 1-888-262-6687.