What to look for in a technical SEO audit
These technical optimizations will become the key differentiating factors for ranking better than your competitors.
According to Techradar, there are more than 547,200 new websites every day. Google has to crawl and store all these sites in their database, therefore occupying physical space on their servers.
The sheer volume of content available now allows Google to prioritize well-designed, fast sites and provide helpful, relevant information for their visitors.
The bar has been raised, and if your site is slow or has a lot of jargon in the code, Google is unlikely to reward your site with strong rankings.
If you really want to jump ahead of your competitors, you have a huge opportunity to be better than them by optimizing your site’s code, speed and user experience. These are some of the most important ranking signals and will continue to be as the internet becomes more and more inundated with content.
Auditing your website’s technical SEO can be extremely dense and with many moving pieces. If you are not a developer, it may be difficult to comprehend some of these elements.
Ideally, you should have a working knowledge of how to run an audit to oversee the implementation of technical SEO fixes. Some of these may require developers, designers, writers or editors.
Fortunately, various tools will run the audits for you and give you all the comprehensive data you need to improve your website’s technical performance.
Let’s review some of the data points that will come up, regardless of what technical SEO audit tool you use:
- Crawlability: Can Google easily crawl your website, and how often?
- Security: Is your website secure with an HTTPS certificate?
- On-page SEO elements: does every page have the keyword in the title tags, meta description, filenames, and paths? Does it have the same on-page elements as sites ranking in the top 10 for your target keywords?
- Internal links: Does your site have internal links from other site pages? Other elements you can consider are site structure, breadcrumbs, anchor text and link sculpting.
- Headings: Is the primary KW in the H1? Do you have H2s with supporting keywords?
- Compliance issues: Does your site’s code include valid HTML? What is the accessibility score?
- Images: Do your images load quickly? Are they optimized with title, keywords and srcset attribute? Do you use some new image formats such as webP and SVG?
- Schema and semantic Web: Are your schema tags in place and set up properly? Some schema tags that you can use include WebPage, BreadcrumbList, Organization, Product, Review, Author/Article, Person, Event, Video/Image, Recipe, FAQ and How-To.
- Canonicals: Do you have canonical tags in place, and are they set up properly?
- SiteMap: Do you ONLY have valid pages in the site map, and are redirects and 404 pages removed from the sitemap?
These are simply a few of the elements you’d want to look into that most tools will report on.
Google has been placing more focus on ranking factors revolving around user experience. As the web collectively becomes more organized, Google is raising the bar for user experience. Focusing on user experience will ultimately increase their advertising revenue.
You’ll want to audit the user experience of your website.
- Is it fast?
- How quickly is the page interactive?
- Can it be navigated easily on mobile devices?
- Is the hierarchy of the site clear and intuitive?
Some of the ways of measuring this include:
- Site speed
- Web Core Vitals
- Structured navigation
- Intrusive ads or interstitials
Make sure you are working with a developer that is well versed in the latest technical SEO elements and who can apply the changes required to raise your SEO performance score.
Technical SEO audit tools
Some of the most popular SEO audit tools include:
- Semrush Site Audit
- Screaming Frog
- Website Auditor
- ContentKing App
- Google Lighthouse
- Google Page Speed Insights
We’ll look at a couple of these tools and the data points you can gain from them.
Semrush site audit
Once you create a project in Semrush, you can run a site audit. Your overview will look like this:
Click on the “Issues” tab, and you’ll see a detailed list of the issues that were uncovered, divided by Errors, Warnings and Notices:
If you click on an item, you’ll see a list of the pages affected by each issue.
Review these as sometimes the data points are not valid.
Ideally, you should export the CSV for each of these issues and save them in a folder.
This desktop tool will use your computer and IP to crawl your website. Once completed, you’ll get various reports that you can download.
Here are a couple of example reports:
This is an overview report that you can use to track technical audit KPIs.
For example, this report gives you details of the meta titles for each of your pages.
You can use the Bulk Export feature to get all of the data points downloaded into spreadsheets, which you can then add to your Audit folder.
Like the others, Site Bulb will do a comprehensive crawl of your website. The benefit of this tool is that it will give you more in-depth technical information than some of the other tools.
You’ll get an Audit Score, SEO Score, and Security Score. As you implement fixes, you’ll want to see these scores increasing over time.
Google Search Console
The Index Coverage report contains a treasure trove of data that you can use to implement the fixes that Google has discovered about your site.
In the details section, you’ll see a list of the errors, and if you click through to each report, they will include the list of pages affected by each issue.
Implementing technical SEO fixes
Once you have all of your CSV exports, you can create a list of all of the issues and go through them to remove duplicate reports created by the different tools.
Next, you can assign what department each fix belongs to and the level of priority. Some may need to be tackled by your developer, others by your content team, such as rewriting duplicate titles or improving descriptions with pages with low CTR.
Here’s what your list might look like:
Each project should include notes, observations, or details about how to implement the fix.
Most websites will have dozens of issues, so the key here is to prioritize the issues and make sure that you are continuously fixing and improving your site’s performance each month.
It’s important that your website reflects topical authority and relevance. E-A-T means:
- Expertise: Are you an expert in your field? Are your authors authoritative?
- Authoritativeness: Are you considered authoritative in your field by industry organizations? Do your social profiles, citations, social shares and link profile reflect this authoritativeness?
- Trustworthiness: Can visitors trust that your website is secure and that their data is safe? Does your site have an SSL certificate, including privacy disclaimers, refund information, contact info and credentials?
Google has an entire team of Quality Raters that manually review websites to assess them based on these parameters. Google has even published the Quality Raters E-A-T guidelines for site owners to reference.
If your website is in a YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) niche, these factors are even more important as Google attempts to protect the public from misinformation.
- Is your Google Analytics code working properly?
- Do you have the proper goals and funnels to fully understand how users navigate your site?
- Are you importing data from your Google Ads and Search Console accounts to visualize all of your data in Google Analytics?
BrainLabsDigital has created a Google Analytics audit checklist that will help you review your Google Analytics account. The accompanying article will give you a straightforward and strategic approach to ensuring your Google Analytics is set up properly.
Prioritizing technical SEO fixes
Make sure you prioritize continuously improving your on-page SEO. Depending on your site, you may have a list of a dozen or a few hundred fixes. Try and determine which fixes will impact the most pages to see a greater improvement from your efforts.
It can be discouraging to see a list with 85 different technical SEO improvements. The benefit is that, as you go through these improvements, you will start seeing movement in your rankings. Over time, you’ll want to have very few, if any, errors show up in all of your crawling tools.
If your content is relevant, targeted and well developed, and you’re receiving new, quality links every month, these technical = optimizations will become the key differentiating factors for ranking better than your competitors.