Recently tasked with performing a technical SEO audit? Or maybe you’ve just heard about how important it is without any real idea as to why. This blog post not only goes into the point of a technical SEO audit, but exactly how to complete one.
Performing a technical SEO audit is important to anyone who is concerned with website optimization, increasing website visitors, and increasing page rank. In short, performing a technical SEO audit is something that should matter to every business on the web.
It’s necessary to perform an audit if
- You’ve never performed one before
- It’s been awhile since your last audit
- You’ve made significant website changes recently
Done correctly, there can be huge gains after you successfully complete a technical audit. And it’s not all about optimizing specific pages for keywords. It’s also about finding 404 errors and fixing them with 301 redirects.
Websites are ever-changing. And while we like to think we’re always on top of the redirects, sometimes things fall through the cracks. If you change the location of a page without setting up a redirect, that means all of that original SERP can’t be passed on to the new page. Instead, you lose it completely. Your new page, then, is essentially starting from scratch to achieve rankings. Finding and fixing these errors allows you maintain your current rankings. Adding keywords and updating your title tags allows you to increase your current rankings.
Now that you know why you should perform an audit, let’s talk about the how. There’s more than one way to optimize a page. It’s true. But let’s keep it simple. Here are the basics (in order) for performing a technical SEO audit.
Checking for 404s
A 404 error occurs when a person attempts to navigate to a page that no longer exists. Sometimes this is intentional, a page is either removed completely or is now housed in a different location. Sometimes this occurs accidentally; someone might change the destination of a URL but forget to alter any hyperlinks pointing to the old address. Sometimes they simply occur when a user attempts to enter a URL directly and includes a typo. Every website (especially larger websites with a complex architecture) will experience 404 errors in some way. That’s why it’s always a great idea to have a unique 404 landing page.
To begin your SEO audit, you need to scrape your site to check for 404 errors. Use tools like Moz or Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider. While you’ll need a subscription for Moz, the SEO Spider is free to use for up to 500 URLs. For larger websites or agency use, you’ll need to purchase a license.
Before you go any further, determine which pages are registering as 404-ing properly (pages that have been deleted from your site completely) and which are not. Set up a 301 redirect for pages that have been permanently moved. The 301 redirect will send your website visitor to the right location (and pass along the original page’s ranking, unlike a 302 redirect). You can even set up multiple redirects all pointing to a single page if necessary.
Are your pages indexed?
Don’t just assume that Google is indexing your pages. You need to turn site indexing on. This will often happen after companies launch a new site. When developers are working in the testing and developing environment, they don’t want Google to index those pages. But when everything is pushed live, no one flips the switch so Google can index.
If Google isn’t indexing your pages, then you have no SEO to maintain. Use Google Search Console to determine whether or not your pages are indexed. Additionally, you can type “site:example.com” into Google’s search engine to see how many results generate. Your homepage should be the first result (outside of Google Search Console). If your homepage is not the first result, this could point to issues such as a penalty. These penalties are invoked by things like duplicate content, an abundance of 404 errors, a poor mobile site, buying links, or excessive use of H1 tags. Moz and the SEO Spider will help you find the errors that can result in a penalty.
However, there may be instances where a specific landing page is so popular it outranks your homepage. That’s fine (and it’s also kind of awesome). Just be aware of this possibility when you check your results. If your homepage ranks suspiciously low, then there may be cause for concern. Check your site for those errors I mentioned and implement fixes to get back on Google’s good side.
Find missing titles, meta descriptions, and meta keywords
Now that you’ve scraped your website, you should have a good idea of where the holes are in your SEO plan.
Meta descriptions and SEO titles are important for search engines (and those doing the searching) since it acts as a preview of the associated page’s content. This is the text people see when they’re looking at search engine results. This text also generates automatically when links are shared on social media pages. Make sure your meta description matches the content of the page it’s describing and includes any relevant keywords. For help creating a meta description, check out this blog post.
This will be the first place to start, but there are still a few other things to consider first.
Find missing content
You’ll also want to find what pages are lacking content on the page. This is a huge factor in ranking as Google prioritizes pages with at least 300 words on the page. You should also consider it a negative if your page has a significant amount of code (HTML or CSS) compared to content (text).
Create a spreadsheet
Now it’s time to create a spreadsheet with all of the pages you need to optimize. Consider prioritizing 10-15 key pages (pages in your main navigation or pages that have a high probability to rank with the right adjustments). Create a separate tab for each of these pages where you can enter your suggested titles, meta descriptions, meta keywords, image alt text, and content.
The remainder of your pages, you can organize on a single page.
Review your keywords and assign pages
Now that you have your links, take a look at the keyword groupings you’ve determined in the past. Depending on your page content, you may have to do more research to fit the perfect keyword (and set of keywords) to the page.
This is the longest part of your technical SEO audit. It’s time to get down to business and assign keywords, descriptions, titles, and content to your pages. Don’t be afraid to revise what’s in place if it makes more sense than what you already have. For instance, if you’re optimizing a page using the keyword “potted plants,” but you don’t include “potted plants” in the title, you will definitely need a new title.
Now that you have the basics down, it’s time to start your own technical SEO audit. Let us know if you need some help.