Does the term technical SEO audit send you running for the hills? There’s something about the word “technical” that just seems to turn people off.
I’m not sure why, but if you’re here because you want to work on your or your client’s technical SEO, then this complete guide is for you.
But first, let’s discuss the basics of technical SEO – what it means, why it’s important, and when to do it. Then, we’ll move on to the tools you should use and the steps to conduct a technical SEO audit.
Let’s get started, shall we?
- What Is Technical SEO and Why Does It Matter?
- When to Conduct a Technical SEO Audit
- Tools to Use
- Google Search Console
- 1. Structured Data
- 2. Index Status
- 3. Mobile Usability
- 4. Crawl Errors
- 5. Robots.txt
- Website Crawl
- 1. Page Titles
- 2. Meta Descriptions
- 3. Duplicate Pages
- 4. Response Codes
- 5. Images ALT Tags
- Website Speed
- 1. Analyzing Speed
- 2. Fixing Speed Errors
- On-Site Checks
- 1. Internal Linking
- 2. Breadcrumb Navigation
- Wrapping It Up
What Is Technical SEO and Why Does It Matter?
Technical SEO refers to a group of processes that are followed to make sure that a website meets search engine requirements.
Optimizing your content and building backlinks help you rank on search.
On the other hand, technical SEO aims for the same goal by discovering and fixing errors or bugs in your website that affects how search engines crawl and index your site. It also helps your site become easily accessible to your users.
We can consider technical SEO as the basic foundation that influences your search rankings.
When to Conduct a Technical SEO Audit
If you were to perform a quick and random technical analysis of your website, you can do this once a month.
But ideally, an in-depth, full technical SEO audit should be done at the start of every SEO campaign once every quarter or every six months.
Tools to Use
Here are the following tools you should use (in no particular order) to perform a complete technical analysis:
- Google Search Console
- PageSpeed Insights
- Screaming Frog
- Yoast SEO
- Mobile-Friendly Test
- Deep Crawl
- Sitemap Generator
Google Search Console
Start your technical SEO audit with Google Search Console. Set up an account to unearth a wealth of information you can use to make improvements.
Below are the factors you should work on using Search Console:
1. Structured Data
Your structured data affects how your schema markup is displayed in search engine results pages.
Check your structured data in GSC by heading to Search Appearance > Structured Data. From the report, you will see all the items that are missing and need improvement.
2. Index Status
Are all the pages of your website indexed by search engines?
Ideally, the number of indexed pages you should see in your GSC’s index status report should be proportionate to the number of all your actual pages.
The index status report shows you the Basic and Advanced version.The Basic version only displays the total value of your indexed pages. The Advanced report tells you more information such as the number of pages blocked by robots and the URLs you’ve removed.
However, take note that before Google can index your site, you need to a sitemap first to Google. Create on using XML-Sitemaps.com’s sitemap generator tool.
After you check your index status in Search Console, you’ll want to confirm that Google fully indexed your website. To do this, type into the address bar site:yourwebsite.com.
You should see all your pages featured in the search results.
Also, above the first result, notice a line that reads “About x results (0.31 seconds)” This tells you the total number of indexed pages that Google indexed. The number of results here should be identical to the results in Search Console.
3. Mobile Usability
Mobile-friendliness is now a ranking signal. In your Search Console, go to Search Traffic > Mobile Usability.
Click the button “OPEN THE MOBILE USABILITY REPORT” to see all the errors present across your pages affecting people’s mobile experiences.
If there are no issues, you’ll see the message “No mobile usability errors detected.”Another option to check your mobile usability is to use Google Search Console’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool. Enter your site URL into the text box to quickly run the test. If your web page is mobile friendly, you will see this result:
4. Crawl Errors
Crawl errors in Google Search Console refer to URLs that, for some reason, Google cannot display.
These may be 404 errors (you’ve deleted content or changed your URL) or 500 errors (server errors). Don’t panic because these errors can be fixed.
But for the purpose of diagnosing the presence of these errors, log into your Search Console. Go to “Craw” and select “Crawl Errors.”
If there are no crawl error problems, you should see a green checkmark for Site Errors and URL Errors. For present errors, you can click each URL to get more details on what caused the error.
The robot.txt file of your website gives search engines instructions on how they should crawl your website. It’s very important that you have this file especially if your site has a lot of pages.
Use your robots.txt tester tool in your Google Search Console in order to see whether you’ve blocked Google web crawlers from crawling valuable pages of your website.
If, through the tester tool, you discover that you disallowed important URLs, make sure to remove these pages listed as disallow. Failure to do so will negatively impact your search engine rankings and website traffic.
Got no idea whether you have a robots.txt file in the first place? Type into your browser’s search bar your site URL. My screenshot below shows you how it’s done:
Create a robots.txt file if you still don’t have one.
After you’ve checked the previous website factors using Google Search Console, we’re going to run a site crawl, in a way that’s similar to search engines, to discover more problems. This time, we will take advantage of other tools.
1. Page Titles
Page titles are among the factors that get you better rankings. They help search engines understand what your site is about.
Also, people who look up information via search engines create a first impression based on your page titles.You can use Screaming Frog to check the performance of your titles and edit them. Yoast SEO is another good choice.
2. Meta Descriptions
Using the same screenshot above, you can find your meta description as the text below your page title. Again, analyze and edit your meta descriptions using Screaming Frog or Yoast SEO.
You’ll want to add your main keyword in your meta description to and make it compelling enough to drive click-throughs. Whether meta descriptions impact your rankings or not, they surely affect your traffic.
3. Duplicate Pages
Identical or duplicate pages happen when you have multiple versions of your site. For example:
If these URLs are live to search engines, you will have duplicate content issues. Because of such duplicate URLs, your link equity will be diluted.
Furthermore, this confuses Google as to which page it should rank. Run a crawl in Screaming Frog or Deep Crawl to catch these duplicate URLs.
301 redirect your duplicate pages (HTTP to HTTPS). For the pages you want Google to index, make sure you implement a rel=canonical tag to them.
4. Response Codes
While you crawl your site using Screaming Frog, you’ll find the tab “Response Codes.” Click this section to find error codes – though not all of them are.
Here are some HTTP status or response codes and their implications:
- 301 – This is a permanent redirect. It means that users that arrive at a page with this code will be redirected to a destination page. A 301 status code is not an error code. Just make sure that it isn’t part of a redirect loop.
- 302 – A 302 is a temporary redirect. You only implement this if you’re redesigning another page or performing site maintenance.
- 400 – This response code means that pages cannot be displayed. Investigate this error code if you see it.
- 403 – This is a valid request but the user is restricted or not authorized to access the page.
- 404 – The page cannot be found because you or your client deleted the page and failed to implement a 301 redirect.
- 500 – This is a common internal server error.
Choose the Filter “Client Error (4xx)” to get the 400, 403, and 404 status codes. Then find out the cause of these errors.
5. Images ALT Tags
A lot of site owners neglect image optimization. Images aren’t just meant to hold a reader’s attention and make a post more compelling. Images can be used to boost your website SEO.
When doing a technical SEO audit, consider the alt text on your images.
Alt text (also called “alt attributes” or “alt descriptions”) are used within your HTML code to describe an image. They help users understand the context of the image in case it doesn’t load.
For the purpose of SEO, using an alt text enhances your image indexation. As a result, Google better understands what your entire content or page is about.
Do all images on your website contain an alt text? Ideally, all site images need to contain this. If you’re not sure, go ahead and check using Screaming Frog. This tool will export bulk data.
Yoast SEO users can also inspect their pages individually under the keyword tab. You should see something like this:
Missing alt tags is the most common mistake you’ll make. The second one is wrong optimization.
After you export data of the images that have missing alt text using Screaming Frog or Yoast SEO, inspect each image and optimize it.
The best way to do so is to provide descriptive information. Be concise with your description. Keep your alt text short. Include your target keyword but never keyword stuff.
Even if website speed doesn’t impact your rankings (but they do), you need to have a fast loading site to please your visitors. They cannot wait for your page to fully load when they can meet their objectives on other sites.
1. Analyzing Speed
PageSpeed Insights is a fantastic tool to perform a technical SEO audit your site speed. It reveals your speed performance on both mobile and desktop. Its score ranges from 0 to 100.
2. Fixing Speed Errors
In the presence of a slow site speed, know that you need to fix such problem immediately. PageSpeed Insights outlines reasons for slow page speed. Some of these issues include large images and code density.
The tool will give you recommendations on how to improve your speed. There are also tools you can use to boost your site speed. I actually wrote a post about it.
What are other factors that affect how users navigate your site and impact SEO at the same time?
In this section, you’re going to find out how to audit your site for internal linking problems and breadcrumb navigation.
1. Internal Linking
Your site architecture entails how you arrange your internal links. Are they structured in a way that allows for an easier navigation by search engines and website visitors?
Remember that content that is not part of an internal linking structure may not be crawled or found by users. Internal links improve the flow of SEO juice from one page to another.
A sound, healthy internal linking structure follows a pyramid formation.
The topmost part of the triangle (or apex) should be your home page. Next, your homepage should link to your main site categories. Main categories link to blog posts. Blog posts link to one another.
Using DeepCrawl, check whether you have the following:
- Unique internal links – Internal links with a unique anchor text and URL
- Broken links – Links that lead to a page with a 400, 403, and 404.
- Maximum links per page – Too many links on a page passes less PageRank to other pages.
Visitors who arrive at large sites (sites with too many pages) will have a hard time figuring out where they are, how to arrive at a certain page or return to a previous page.
Breadcrumbs help prevent your users from getting overwhelmed by achieving an understandable layout. They also enhance the internal linking structure of your site.
Try to create a map of your website navigation and consider whether a breadcrumb navigation will improve site usability.
The screenshot above is an example of an attribute-based breadcrumb. This type of breadcrumb specifies product categories.
Wrapping It Up
To carry out a technical SEO audit is an important and surefire strategy to increase your search engine rankings. Consider it a key for long-term growth. Regular audits allow you to catch problems that potentially harm your performance.
Since not every site owner feels confident enough to perform a technical SEO audit, they may consider hiring an experienced SEO for help. The information in this post should be able to guide you throughout the process.
Let me know the results of your audit in the comments below!