Did you know that 51% of online traffic arrives at websites through organic search? If someone says search engine optimization (SEO) is dead, they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about. SEO has certainly evolved and changed over the past decade and doesn’t look the same way it once did, but it’s at the core of any effective marketing strategy.
To really maximize SEO, you need to look beyond blogs and guest posts, and into the technical side of SEO. But where do you start? Here’s our guide to conducting the ultimate technical SEO audit.
“Getting” The Different Types of SEO
SEO can feel like an elusive beast to organizations who know that the acronym is something they should eventually be thinking about but don’t really know anything about. But, before you decide to conduct an SEO audit, you need to understand what technical SEO really is and where it fits in with all of the different types of SEO.
There are three types of SEO: technical, on-page and off-page. Think of them as a Venn diagram, in that they overlap with each other. A technical SEO audit will include some elements of on-page and off-page SEO. This is why most agencies will suggest running a comprehensive SEO audit that hits on all types, versus just one type.
On-page SEO deals with keyword optimization, content creation, and management, building authority and optimizing media like images and video. Mostly anything, that someone who visits your site (especially blogging) that is on your website, deals with on-page SEO.
Off-page SEO is the opposite of on-page, in that it deals with the content and links to your website that are not on your website. This includes things like press releases published on a distribution platform, guest posts, inbound links, and reputation management.
Technical SEO is the more “complicated” form of SEO that deals with everything on the backend of your website. The backend of your website is the backstage view of your website. It goes into the coding, and technical aspects of a website to ensure that a website is organized in the best possible way for search engines.
What The Key Objectives of a Technical SEO Audit Are
The main purpose of a technical SEO audit is to take control of how your website is being indexed by search engines. Some businesses are shocked to find out that they aren’t even indexed with Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
Some content management platforms like WordPress and Squarespace will offer domain registration and indexing in one of their packages, but it isn’t a guarantee. Indexing is like putting an “open” sign on the door of your business. It lets search engines know that you exist.
If you open a business with signage, and not messaging that says your open, no one is likely to come in.
Aside from making sure your website is indexed, technical SEO can help manage how search engines “crawl” your website. Often, there are issues in how a website is organized and set-up in the background that impacts search rankings, that only a technical SEO audit can reveal.
What You’ll Need to Perform a Technical SEO AUdit
An agency or person cannot perform a technical SEO audit without some key information from a client. They will need a handful of passwords, that some companies will have trouble being forthcoming about. But there is no way to perform an in-depth technical report, without the,
In general, this is what anyone will need to be able to perform a technical SEO audit:
- Access to Google Analytics and any other analytics tools like SEMRush that a company might be using. You do not have to give up your Google Analytics password, but you can add (and remove) other Google accounts as administrators.
- Webmaster and backend website login information.
- Google and Bing ad account access.
- Social media logins and passwords.
- A list of all vendors and the login information for them.
- A round-up of internal and outsourced team members, their contact information, and responsibilities.
Make Sure It’s The Right Time
Just because you read an article about how important something is for businesses, doesn’t mean it’s the right time for your business to conduct one. For starters, if you aren’t willing to share the information we mentioned in the previous section, it might not be the right time for you.
It’s also essential that your team understands the value of a technical SEO audit in the bigger picture of your company’s goals. A technical SEO plan should be in alignment with your longterm goals, it’s not a quick fix or a short-term campaign driven strategy.
You should also have a clear idea of who your target audience is. Not an assumption of who your audience is, but a clear group of buyer personas based on the right data.
The budget and bandwidth of your team is something else to take into consideration. While you might know what strategy is best for your team to undergo, the reality of if you are capable of actually executing it, or supporting and affording and agency that can is another thing.
Tools to Try for Your Website SEO Audit
Too thoroughly conduct a tech audit, you’ll need the help of tools. Whichever tools you use are entirely up to you, but below are some of the most common that SEO managers use.
- Screaming Frog
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Google Tag Manager
- Bing Webmaster Tools
- Integrity (Mac only)
- Xenu Sleuth (PC only)
- Wayback Machine
- SEO Browser
Setting Up Your Website to Be Crawled and Indexed
To know how your website is being crawled, you’ll need to essentially run a crawl yourself, using one or a few different tools.
Start by checking the robots.txt file. The robots.txt file communicates which pages are available to be crawled. Problems can arise when a website has disallowed crawlers from looking through an essential part of a website. There can also be a problem when a website allows crawlers to go through parts of the website you do not want to be crawled and do not benefit your search rankings to do so.
A crawl report will also reveal duplicate content on your website. Duplicate content reflects poorly on the quality of your website to crawlers and can knock your search rankings. Duplicate copy in meta descriptions, page titles and domains are common.
Another crucial thing you’ll learn from a crawl report is the indexing status of your website and if it is considered to be “indexable” or not. Even though Google is the most influential search engine, you’ll want to make sure your site is also indexed with Bing and Yahoo.
One way you will know if your site is being indexed is by locating the Google Analytics code. Or, what you’ll hear referred to as the “UA” code.
Managing Internal and External Links
Another major function if a technical SEO audit is to asses the quality of your internal links and backlinks.
First, you’ll want to check for broken internal links. These pages will display an error code. Too many of these are bad for site integrity, which means you’ll need to either remedy the page error, delete the page or redirect crawlers so that they do not index the page.
You’ll also want to asses the quality of page URLs, and if they are in searchable formats. For example, a URL that is full of numbers and characters is not helpful for crawlers who are deciphering the best way to index your site. It’s also not very user-friendly.
You’ll also want to look, briefly, at your backlink portfolio. You may find that your site is being linked to through keywords that have nothing to do with your business, which might be negatively impacting your site’s searchability.
If you have low-ranking, “sketchy” sites linking to your page, that can also be a problem. Google considers the quality of the sites that are linking to you when it assesses your website’s legitimacy. You can reach out to websites and ask them to remove links, or you can add them to your disavow list.
You can do all of this manually, which is every time consuming, or you can use the help of a tool.
Organize Your Website, Establish a Clear Hierarchy of Your Content
Site organization and infrastructure can be a huge problem for websites, especially ones that have been around for a long time and have had many different hands in them.
Over time, the backend of your website can become confusing to crawlers that are trying to figure out exactly what your website is authoritative on. Page overload is a common symptom of sites that have tried to rank for a lot of different keywords over time.
It’s especially common for medical and dental offices and lawyers. They want to be known for a dozen different services, so they create a page for every possible service, in hopes that it will improve their search results. This sort of works, but also doesn’t.
It’s best to organize your content in a hierarchy system, with one page, usually the home page, that serves as the home page. With a handful of pillar pages, maybe three or five at most, that clearly stem from the home page. From there you should create subdomains from the second grouping of pages, which can keep them all relatively balanced.
How Often Should You Perform a Technical SEO Audit?
One of the biggest struggles for SEO managers and agencies is having stakeholders understand the value of SEO, while also having them understand the long game of SEO. Conducting any type of audit and fixing errors will not drastically change your business overnight, or over the course or a week, or month.
Google’s AI is smart, and it takes time for you to prove your site’s authority. With that said, an in-depth, comprehensive SEO audit should be conducted roughly once every six months.
Although it might seem like a lot, the process can be done in a day’s work or less, once the template for the audit is established.
Even though you only need to be checking into your technical SEO strategy every six months, or after any significant Google update, you should be checking into your on and off-page SEO strategy monthly.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every month, but you should be pulling a base level report that shows you what keywords you’re ranking for and what backlinks are pointing to your brand. This information should be used to help you craft your overall digital marketing strategy every month.
Every six months, in addition to a technical SEO report, you should also be pulling a comprehensive report that also dives into on and off-page too.
Should You Conduct a Website SEO Audit In House? Or Hire Help?
Let’s be real, if you’re reading this blog post, chances are you aren’t a business that currently has its own designated SEO team. And most businesses don’t, doing SEO the right way is expensive, in that you need a designated person or persons to manage it for you.
While you might be able to get by with a marketing generalist for your on and off-page SEO strategies, you really need someone who knows what they’re doing for technical SEO. Even though the auditing process might seem very templated and mundane, the “fun” of it happens in the form of inevitable problem-solving bottlenecks. These require in-depth knowledge of how search works, but also creativity and a motivation to learn and be challenged.
Need help finding your SEO “person”? Click here to get in touch!