What is a tech SEO audit, and why does my site need it?
Both SEO professionals and website owners everywhere constantly have two questions on their minds: Can this page rank? And does it meet the minimum technical SEO requirements?
And well, if you’ve landed on this blog it’s more than likely that you’ve been told you need a tech SEO audit, but you’re not sure what that involves, or why you need it.
More often than not, experts have a tidy list of SEO jargon to check through when solving ranking issues. But as the average Joe (no offence), you may not be fully aware of all the steps, or the in-depth technical SEO audits (a process that identifies errors or problems that stop a site from ranking well) that pros conduct to help improve search engine visibility.
And while said jargon may appear overwhelming at first glance, once you have more of an understanding of the purpose of a tech audit, you’ll soon have a clearer idea of the fixes your website needs to achieve a strong foundation to rank higher. So, if you want a quick and easy way to boost your rankings, indexing and visibility online, here’s how we do it in 7 steps (and why!):
Understand Your Competitors
There’s no point diving head-first into a technical SEO audit if you don’t first understand your competition. Whether you’re conducting an audit as part of your continuing SEO strategy, or you’re launching a new website, you need to be aware of the other brands, businesses and websites in your online space. Because the more you know about what these websites are doing, the higher the chances of success rates.
To understand these competitors, we’ll benchmark the rankings of your website and profile your performance against them. We tend to do this using Semrush.
How to Benchmark Your Site’s Rankings
We set up position tracking tool for your website.. Again, we tend to do this using the Semrush Position Tracking tool. To build out your site’s campaign.
We then add your keywords so we can track them. We do this in a variety of ways: Manually, from a campaign, Google Analytics or Semrush. Once we’ve started tracking, we are able to keep tabs on how you rank across your (and our) chosen keywords. If you visit the Semrush Competitors Discovery report, you can examine how your competitors rank for the same keywords. But don’t worry, we’ll report back on this for you.
How we work out your competitors
Using the Organic Research tool, we can get a general overview of your site’s competitors. But, if you want to do it yourself, just type in your domain and then select the ‘Competitors’ tab. This will create an auto-populated Competitive Positioning map and a report that shows your website’s top 100 competitors based on Competition Level. Magic.
Manually Review the Website
This is where it gets techy. We’ll now gather the basic technical information by running a manual review of the site. In short, this means approaching the website from a user’s perspective, and clicking through everything as if we were trying to unpack the main goals of the site.
We’ll flag anything that seems unusual, i.e a page taking too long to load, as well as things that we think have been done well, i.e an easy checkout process. There’s no point in changing what’s not broken.
Once we’ve done the manual prep, we look at the performance of your website. Our tech SEO’s can detect any on-page and technical SEO problems that could compromise your rankings and visibility in the SERPs (search engine results page). We tend to do this manually, as more often than not, tools don’t pick up on as much as the beady eyes of our Tech SEO team. Not a single broken link is safe!
Gather Data From Analytics Tools
Next up is checking the data from analytics tools, including Google Search Console Reports (GSC) and Google Analytics. GSC includes lots of different reports, all of which are important to be aware of for a high ranking site. For example, the Coverage report tells you which pages are indexed, and which are available to appear in the search engine. It also shows you which pages are prohibited from Google and why. Our SEO manager will explain any issues, and provide a simple explanation of what you can do to fix it.
As of 2021, mobile-friendliness has been part of the Page Experience update, due to it being essential nowadays for user experience. Our team have their own ways of testing for mobile usability, but you can use a Google tool called the Mobile-Friendly test which allows you to check how the mobile version of your website performs, if you fancy doing this from home.
With Google Analytics we also check the data trends from the last 12 months to find out how your site gains traffic, and where from.
Once we have all this info, we study it to find any trends, anomalies, and anything that is of importance.
Find How Many Backlinks Your Website Has
To do this we use an SEO software suite called Ahrefs to find out how many backlinks are linking back to your site. Ahrefs allows you to extract data from a number of search engines other than Google, including other big-timers like Amazon and YouTube. Once we have this data, we can export it for future scrutiny. If you want to do this yourself, you can locate these backlinks by:
- Heading to Ahrefs Site Explorer.
- Clicking “*.domain/*” for websites and “exact URL” for web pages from the drop-down option.
- On the left-hand menu, go to the Backlinks report.
You can also use Ahrefs to discover the number of domains that include links back to the site you’re auditing. This info can be used for analysis, too.
Internal Linking on Your Website
As we improve the accessibility for users and SERPs to locate the content on your site, we need to examine the status of the internal links. A website has two main types of these links: Navigational and contextual.
Navigational links are typically found in the sidebar, header, or footer. Contextual links are typically incorporated within the content of the web page – think hyperlinks.
There is a third type of internal link, called breadcrumbs, but even though it can be advantageous, it is not used as often unless the site is ecommerce. This is a secondary navigation scheme that shows the location of the web user. For when you’re 3 hours deep into the John Lewis site on Black Friday.
When we check your internal links, we’re looking for the following issues:
- Broken links: The link has major problems and more often than not leads to an error 404 page
- Faulty external links: Maybe it links to the wrong site, or the copy on the page has since changed
- Bad follow links: These links provide no advantage to your website and don’t help rankings
- Too many links: Too many internal links looks spammy and unnatural, plus, we want the link juice being passed to the most important pages only.
Many of the internal links that have the problems listed above tend to be fairly simple to fix. Our team will provide guidance on how to fix them, but a few things to remember when repairing internal links include:
- Link to web pages with no redirects.
- Have direct links to indexable pages.
- Don’t include unnecessary information for users and search engines. Instead, ensure all the info provided is helpful and relevant.
We’ll also make sure all of your website’s internal (and external) linking has appropriate anchor texts, too. This means using relevant keywords so users know what to expect when they leave your page to the hyperlinked one. This is also helpful for our friend, the Google crawler.
Fixing and Redirecting Server Errors
Server errors and page loading can have a negative effect on both user experience and when Google or any other search engine tries to crawl your website. Once we’ve run your tech audit, you’ll see any of these problems listed.
There are three main types of status codes: 3xx, 4xx, and 5xx.
3xx Status Codes
This is when SERPs and users are redirected to a new page from your site:
- 301: This is a permanent redirect. It is when identical or similar content has been moved to a different URL and is considered the “best” redirect due to the SEO value passing on to a new page.
- 302: This is a temporary redirect for identical or similar content. It could be used when you’re A/B testing a new web page template.
- 307: Another temporary redirect. However, it should be avoided, as it changes protocol from the source to the destination.
4xx Status Codes
This is when a requested page cannot be accessed. Otherwise known as broken links. The most common 4xx faults include:
- 403: Forbidden access, which means a login may be necessary.
- 404: The resource is non-existant, and the link needs fixing.
- 410: A permanently gone resource.
- 429: Too many requests on the server in a short space of time.
5xx Status Codes
This is a fault on the server side, and suggests the server cannot carry out the request. All pages that have a 301 or 403 status should be flagged so you can ensure the redirects are being used properly.
Are the Keywords, Headings, and Content Following SEO Best Practice Recommendations?
When reviewing page titles, we’ll make sure that SERPs and users can easily access the information about the web page. For example, all pages should have unique title tags.
To follow SEO best practices, they should be within 30 to 60 characters, as this reduces the risk of them being dismissed by SERPs.
With meta descriptions, you need to make sure they are both descriptive and straight to the point. The recommended length is between 70 to 155 characters. And remember, no fluff = more chance of users selecting your result. If you have a missing description, Google has the capacity to generate its own. It can also rewrite the description and override a current unique one. However, for SEO best practice, you should try and write your own descriptions for your content. Again, we’ll help you with this.
Some solid SEO copy here… pic.twitter.com/aFdsTSiDzm
— Richard Shove (@RichardShove) May 22, 2019
In terms of headings, it’s advised that each web page on a website has at least one H1 header. These should include the target keyword and clearly describe what the content is about to the SERPs and users.
If your web page doesn’t have an H1, it’s less likely to be picked up by search engines and will lose opportunities to provide them with important information for users who are looking for content relevant to your site.
Increase Your Website’s Success
Our tech SEO audits are in depth and take time, with an end goal of increasing the visibility and the rankings of your website. From first understanding your competitors, to manually reviewing your site, all the way to suggesting SEO best practices for your content. This walk through of our process is to help you understand your tech SEO audit, or even perform one yourself!