If you’re here reading about our Technical SEO Audit process and the value it offers to your business, we’re assuming you already know a little bit about SEO in general, but here’s a brief overview, just in case. SEO, short for Search Engine Optimisation, is the process of obtaining and improving organic traffic from search engines. This includes optimisation in multiple areas, including technical, user experience, content, keywords and links. If you’re looking for more info on SEO in general, you can check out our SEO guide or take a crash course in SEO over at Moz.
This blog post is going to take you through our audit process for technical SEO. This process may, of course, differ between agencies and other SEO service providers, but this is how we do it at 90 Digital.
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What is a Technical SEO Audit?
A Technical SEO Audit is a thorough examination of a website from a search engine’s point of view. The process includes a full site crawl and analysis which explores everything in the backend of a website, from meta descriptions, canonical markup and URL architecture to site speed and mobile optimisation.
The outcome is a report which provides an in-depth analysis of each aspect audited and recommendations to fix or improve any issues. The main purpose of this audit is to identify any issues that may affect the website from a technical standpoint and provide actionable next steps. These next steps can either be taken away and actioned in-house or we can carry out the implementation of the technical recommendations at our end, depending on client budget, resources and preferences.
This type of audit is particularly important for SEO because if your site is not indexable or crawlable, you are immediately at a disadvantage if search engines cannot find you and all other efforts could be fruitless. If done correctly, the implemented results could affect a number of KPIs, including:
- Organic Traffic
- Number of Keyword Rankings
- Type of Rankings
- Click-through Rate
- User Engagement
If landing page optimisation is also something that forms part of your audit and actionable recommendations, you could even see improvements in paid traffic too.
Why is an audit important?
At 90 Digital, we believe in a holistic approach. If we begin each project with a complete and full understanding of their SEO efforts and competition, we can deliver the best results for our clients . We need to understand what previous work has been carried out by anyone working on the site, including any damage that has been left behind. It is also important to be aware of any impact from penalties, migrations or major site changes. By starting each project this way, instead of just researching a few areas, we will be able to create an effective and sustainable strategy from the outset.
Exploring the elements of a Tech SEO Audit
There are multiple elements and mini audits within the overall Technical SEO Audit that we analyse when pulling everything together and it can become very data heavy and quite long as it is very detailed. However, we ensure that everything is explained clearly with keynotes and highlighted points, clear structure and navigation, and easy to read prioritisation and next steps.
SITE CRAWLABILITY & INDEXABILITY AUDIT
HTTPS: INSECURE CONTENT & REDIRECT CHAINS
STRUCTURED DATA MARKUP
TITLES & META DESCRIPTIONS
Site Crawlability & Indexability Audit
The most important part of SEO is the crawlability and indexability. If your site cannot be found by search engines, then there is zero chance that it will appear on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). The core function of a search engine is to crawl, index, and then rank. This is done by bots or spiders crawling websites and navigating around the web using links.
This part of the audit includes a review of your sitemap, existing indexation status, meta robots and directives and ensures your website can be found. While a sitemap is not strictly necessary for SEO purposes (Google is quite capable of crawling your site) – a sitemap can help in identifying indexation problems. The sitemap should only contain URLs that are compliant. A compliant URL returns a 200 status, is not canonicalised, is not blocked in robots.txt and does not have a noindex directive. A sitemap does not necessarily contain all of the (compliant) URLs of your site, but if you use it, it should at least contain your most important URLs.
HTTPS: Insecure Content & Redirect Chains
HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is an extension of HTTP and is used for secure communication between server and browser. It means that an SSL certificate is active for the website. HTTPS requires all resources, including images, CSS and JS, to be loaded over an HTTPS connection. If this isn’t done, browsers won’t show the green padlock indicating a secure website on certain pages. Browsers now display warning messages to users if a site is served over HTTP as opposed to HTTPS.
If your website is older, you may still have some old media or content loaded over HTTP or old URLs that have not been redirected to HTTPS and so the site is only partially secure. This part of the audit will highlight any media, content or URLs that are not fully secure. If your site is fully served over HTTP, then a full migration to HTTPS will be required if you want to fully optimise for search engines. HTTPS is now a ranking factor for Google and a lot of cases have seen improvements in rankings overall once they made the switch. Some cases have reported a negative effect on rankings immediately following an HTTP to HTTPS migration and it will differ per site, but if done correctly from the beginning, it should improve everything from a technical, user and rankings standpoint, over time.
The redirect chain aspect will ensure that there are no redirect chains which send users through loops or timeout – we will identify any broken links or errors and endless redirect loops to make certain your user navigation is optimised.
A URL (uniform resource locator) is the address of a resource on the internet – it specifies the exact location of a resource (such as a web page). When we review the URL structure, we are looking at a number of things. Are the URLs relevant, simple and accurate? Are they concise? Do they use any special or random characters to break up words? Are they all lowercase? How are parameters used?
All of these elements are, of course, from a search engine viewpoint because as I mentioned, a Technical SEO Audit is auditing the whole website from a search engine’s perspective. However, we do need to use common sense and consider the user when reviewing these things – especially front-facing (visible to the user) elements.
We need to ensure both search engines and users can understand what a page is about without any additional information. This means that the use of numbers and special characters is best avoided, but may be necessary at times. Parameters should also be used sparingly; they are not the most user-friendly aspects of a URL but may be required in some instances – such as search queries, forms submissions, UTM tracking. URLs should not use underscores, spaces, or any other characters to separate words.
We also look at the information architecture of a website – is it logical? We review depth of pages, orphan pages, hierarchies, categorisation and navigation. It’s important to note that URLs are a ranking factor in itself and can help with the authority of a domain, but the keywords used in a URL can also be a ranking factor. However, URLs are a minor ranking factor and so should not be used to stuff keywords or created for the sole purpose of getting a keyword connected to your domain as it will likely yield little to no results for you.
Interlinking is the process of linking to other pages on your website internally. This practice helps search engines and users navigate your website, but also passes ‘link juice’ to these pages. Interlinking restructuring and optimisation include creating a clear navigation structure for both users and search engines. This process includes writing descriptive anchor text, the clickable words in a link, as this is a useful signal to help search engines and users alike to have a better understanding of your content. During the audit, we analyse link accessibility, link volume and link redirections.
Duplicate content is basically the existence of content in more than one place on the internet – this can be on the same website or on two or more different websites. In fact, it was discovered that 29% of online content is duplicated. Having duplicate content can make it difficult for search engines to decide which one is most relevant, and therefore could affect rankings.
When auditing for duplicate content, we will look at URL variations and parameters which can sometimes cause duplication, HTTP and HTTPS and www prefix versions of your website, scraped or copied content, and syndicate content.
There may be times when search engines need help in deciphering the master page from a similar or duplicate URL. This does not necessarily mean duplicate content, as discussed above, although this could also be included in the equation. Often there are multiple URLs for a page, which could be including www, http and https, /index or a whole other multitude of parameters or elements. The fact is that duplicate URLs happen and sometimes you may not even realise you have them. This is where canonical tags come in. A canonical tag is a snippet of code added to a page to tell search engines which URL is the master version of a page and ultimately, which URL you would like to appear on search engines.
When we audit your canonical tags, we analyse a variety of things, including current canonical tags across the site, the accuracy of existing canonical tags, indexability and crawlability of master URLs tagged with a canonical.
International targeting is a huge area of SEO and there are different ways to approach it depending on your audience and website goals. You may have a fully optimised site for targeting different countries and languages around the world, or you may just target multiple languages without specific country targeting.
Our Technical SEO Audit will include an analysis of your URL structure, which for international targeting may include country codes in a number of ways: ccTLD, subdomain, subdirectory, gTLD with language parameters, multiple domains. We will assess if you have the correct URL structure to match what you are trying to achieve in terms of goals and user targets.
With language targeting, we look at hreflang tags – these tell search engines which languages your pages are available in so that they serve the correct version to your international users. We will check that you have these tags set up in the correct location on your site, that the code is accurate and that you have used the correct ISO Language and Region Codes.
Local SEO is valuable for businesses who need to provide additional information to their customers and online users. This could include location, contact details, opening hours, branches and any other set info that people may be searching for. The more information search engines have, the more information it can provide to your users.
When auditing your Local SEO, we will conduct a full Google My Business Page Audit, checking for inconsistencies and recommending changes and optimisations. We will also audit the website for accurate information and make sure it is crawlable, such as telephone numbers, addresses and business hours. We will also check the presence of your site on Google and Apple Maps.
Structured Data Markup
Taking up more SERP space helps improve your brand perception and point people in the right direction for other owned media. Structured Data Markup can help search engines and social platforms to pull additional information from your site, gain a greater understanding of your content and connect the links between your various sites and platforms. It can also help provide users with more brand information and links to related sites, such as social media platforms.
We will audit any presence of Schema, Open Graph, Microdata and any other social specific markups (such as Twitter Cards), to ensure full accuracy and optimisation.
Titles & Meta Descriptions
A title tag is one of the first things a search engine reads on a site and one of the first things users see on SERPs. It should tell search engines and users what a webpage is about. Meta descriptions allow you the opportunity to go into more detail about the content of a page. Both the title tag and meta description should be clear, concise, not too long or wide, not too short, and not duplicated, where possible.
From the Tech SEO Audit, provide a detailed breakdown of title tags and meta descriptions best practices and highlight any areas for optimisation. We can help you create new title tags and meta descriptions in the implementation part of our Technical SEO service.
Heading tags are used to title sections of a webpage. Heading tags have a top-down hierarchy from <h1> to <h6>. The most important tag is the <h1> with <h6> being the least important. A clear heading structure helps search engines and users understand your page. You should also consider screen readers used by visually impaired people; they heavily depend on a clear heading markup.
We will audit all headings, detailing any missing, duplicate, too long, too short or too many. Headings are to be used to display the hierarchical structure of the page, not for styling, which multiple duplicate h2 or h3 headings on a page may be an indicator of.
Images are the number one culprit for a slow website. Always make sure you’re using the correct format for your images: GIF for animation, PNG for high resolution (24 for lots of colours, 8 for fewer) or JPEG for when high-res is not as important. They should also be compressed as massive images, especially when loading on smaller screens like mobile can slow down a website to the point where users will click away and find another option. I use TinyPNG and Compress JPEG for image compression. You can also use onsite plugins, depending on your CMS, such as Smush which will compress images as you upload them to your site.
Images on a website should also have alt text as this helps search engines and screen readers understand how to index an image and what it contains. The text should be descriptive and although you can use relevant keywords it should not contain any spammy attempts at keyword stuffing. Google Image search is very popular and might prove to be a good source of organic traffic.
We will audit the number of images on your website, along with their size, indexability and alt text.
A page speed analysis involves assessing if anything slowing down a website. Google uses site speed as a ranking factor for desktop and mobile. Ultimately, if a website takes too long to load, Google will consider not including it in search results. Not only does the time a website takes to load impacts rankings, but it also affects the user experience, particularly on mobile where you’re also competing with mobile internet connectivity and speeds lower than desktop.
There are a number of things that can affect the speed in which a website loads – we will audit all of them and provide recommendations and next steps to ensure your website is fully optimised on all platforms.
We will make sure your website can be accessed on mobile and that it is optimised for mobile and other small screen device users. This part of the audit looks at speed, design, structure and configuration. You can check out our guide to optimising your website for mobile to get a deeper insight into the kind of thing we will audit in this section.
What happens after I receive my Technical SEO Audit Report?
After you receive your Technical SEO Audit Report, your project manager will schedule a time with you to go through the report in its entirety. A Technical SEO Strategist on our team will most likely join too. You will have the opportunity to ask any questions you have, go into more detail on anything you would like more information or explanation on, and discuss the recommendations and next steps to ensure your priorities are aligned.
The actionable next steps can either be addressed in-house, with or without our support, or we can address these fully for you. We will work with you to put together a framework of tasks, deadlines and priorities in line with the recommendations and your strategy. If you have a site developer or a web team, we will work closely with them to ensure everything is implemented. The purpose of this service is to make sure the results of the audit are executed on the site, which will ensure the site is optimised for search engines.
It can be difficult to understand the importance of Technical SEO because a lot of it does not yield visible, front-facing changes (such as design elements and content). If one does not speak code and is not particularly aware of the processes of a website and how it appears in SERPs, it can be difficult to comprehend the amount of optimisation required and the complexity of some of the work involved, in some cases.
However, Technical SEO should most certainly not be underestimated. Although it is quite a complex category of optimisation, it is one that can improve your site visibility, traffic, engagement, and conversions massively. Ultimately, increasing business and having an overall positive effect on ROI.