How to Perform a Technical SEO Audit
Let’s look at numbers to show whether a technical SEO audit is worth your time. First and foremost, one of the leading SEO platforms, BrightEdge, offers research indicating that 68% of all user online experiences begin with a search. Second, with Google being the top search engine, users made 84.7 billion visits throughout the company’s lifetime. Third, the latest data from Internet Live Stats show that daily Google searches have grown from 3.5 billion in 2012 to 8.5 billion in 2022. Yet, the evidence shows only 0.78% of all the searches appear on the second Google search results page.
The number of Google searches has risen steadily. There are particular search results users see first. A technical SEO audit allows specific search results to emerge at the top, meaning users see them first and are most likely to click on them. Further, we presented a step-by-step guide for conducting an effective website technical audit. Using these carefully ensures your site will be distinguishable among millions of other websites.
What is a Technical SEO Audit?
In a nutshell, a technical SEO audit is the process site owners use to identify issues and errors preventing the website from ranking high in various search engines. When conducting this audit, you ensure Google can correctly index and render your site. Besides, with the audit, you check whether there are any content SEO problems. Moreover, technical SEO audits help assess whether your website is correctly linked to other websites and vice versa.
From the user experience perspective, a technical SEO audit is about ensuring your website works properly on mobile devices and desktops. The study conducted by canonicalized suggests only 24% of the top 1 million most used websites are not mobile-friendly. Finally, with a good SEO audit, you can track your site’s performance and understand whether some tweaking is required.
Why is a Website Technical Audit Important?
Speaking more on the significance of a website technical audit, you should consider the following:
- SEO audits ensure your website is indexed correctly, which means it will appear at the top of search engine results pages.
- A technical website audit is a great way to avoid penalties imposed by Google. There are toxic backlinks that can thwart your website’s performance.
- With SEO audits, you get new sales opportunities because the more likely users to see your website, the more likely you will get new customers.
- A technical site audit brings more organic traffic.
Considering the above, SEO audits help detect and resolve issues that might have thwarted your traffic and sales. Respectively, when done correctly, you promote your business’s growth and ensure a better user experience. Yet, one of the critical aspects of a website technical audit depends on the instruments you use.
Tools to Use for Technical Website Audit
Naturally, the Google search engine employs a particular algorithm setting specific SEO standards. To help users align their technical SEO audits with these standards, the company offers some unique tools, such as the following:
- Google Analytics. This tool offers visual metrics assessing your website’s performance in the Google search engine.
- Google PageSpeed Insights. This tool helps measure your website’s performance on different mobile and desktop platforms.
- Google Search Console. This instrument shows whether you indexed your site correctly and where the website will appear in Search Engine Result Pages (SERP).
- Google Schema Markup Testing Tool. This tool shows whether the code written for your site does not have errors.
- Google Test My Site. This instrument evaluates the speed of the mobile version of your website and offers unique recommendations on how to improve the speed.
- Google Tag Manager. This tool enables users to manage site tags without editing the code.
- Google Lighthouse. This is a comprehensive open-source tool that helps improve the overall quality of your website.
At this point, you can see that many Google-based tools can be vital in technical SEO audits. However, these are not always a perfect match or panacea for all users. As a result, if the instruments above are insufficient, you can always appeal to some additional software:
- Semrush Audit Tool. It is an all-in-one technical audit SEO tool helping users to conduct keyword research, find backlink opportunities and many other things.
- Screaming From SEO Spider. This tool helps improve your site’s SEO performance and allows dealing with the most common SEO-related issues and errors.
- SEO Browser. This instrument simulates the Google search engine and shows how well your website performs SEO-wise.
- Integrity. This tool works for MAC users and allows checking all the broken links to improve your website quality.
- Xenus. This tool is for PC users and does the same thing as Integrity.
Choosing the proper technical SEO audit tool is as essential as doing the audit itself. The list above provides enough instruments to help deal with issues we will explore later.
What Are the Steps to Perform a Technical SEO Audit?
Information From a Client You Need Before SEO Technical Audit
If you work for a client, keep in mind that you need additional information on SEO technical audits. If you are a website owner, disregard this section. At this point, if you plan to conduct an SEO audit for a client’s website, make sure you have the following:
- Access to Google Analytics.
- Access to the website’s backend log.
- Access to social media accounts.
- Access to webmaster tools.
- Access to Google Ads.
You will face significant challenges if you don’t access the above mentioned tools. So make sure you have all it takes to start an effective technical SEO site audit at once.
Technical Site Audit Checklist
Our step-by-step guide includes these successive steps:
- Making Content Visible
- Putting Up Analytics
- Checking Canonicalization Signals
- Google Search Console Evaluation
- Looking at Manual Activities
- Identifying Website’s Speed
- Determining Mobile Adaptivity
- Searching for Indexation Problems
- Examining Potential 404 Errors
- Making Sitemap Visible
- Focusing on Redirects
- Emphasizing Secure Protocols
- Content Auditing
- Determining Incorrect and Hazardous Backlinks
- Evaluating Schema Markup
You need to follow them one step at a time. Often, it is worth double-checking whether each phase is done correctly. Now, let’s deconstruct each step in greater detail.
1. Making Content Visible
While content is the least technical part of an SEO audit, it is one of the key ranking factors. At this point, you need to start a technical SEO audit to make your website content visible to any search engines. Use GoogleBot to check whether your content looks good to users and the Google search algorithm. Keep in mind that you need to check the cached version of the page to see how Google indexed it.
The second phase of the website technical audit starts with benchmarking, which means measuring the SEO performance of your website. You can use this tool to do a crucial part of benchmarking – position tracking. Just enter your domain and start tracking. Then, choose the device, location, search engine, and language. In the next part, add keywords you want to track. Finally, you can use Google Analytics to determine which keywords your site will perform the best.
After completing the tracking, you will see your ranking among the keywords you or Google Analytics have chosen. As a result, benchmarking shows whether you have selected the right keywords for your website and indicates whether you need to change any particular keywords to stand out in search results.
3. Putting Up Analytics
The following technical website audit step is checking if your analytics works correctly. To do that, enter your home page and press Ctrl +U. It will take you to the page’s source code. The portion of code you are looking for is in the head tags (<head> … </head>). Next, you need to look for the “id” section. It would look like this: “https://www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-TRV24V.” At this point, copy the id number and match it with the Google Tag assistant. Finally, you can install the plugin of the tool and run the tracking code to determine whether the analytics was installed correctly.
If the tags are green, it means the analytics works correctly. If tags are blue or red, they need fixing. Most often, tags can be resolved through trigger settings. You can always use this Tag Manager Help to troubleshoot the issue above. With tags set and analytics working correctly, you need to check whether your website’s data conforms with existing canonical rules.
4. Checking Canonicalization Tags
Canonicalization ensures your site’s data is represented in a standard approved format. In other words, it helps a search engine to see whether your URL means the master copy of a page. This is what prevents duplicate content from emerging in different URLs.
To check canonical tags, go to the page’s source code (Ctrl + U) and search for “rel=’canonical’.” If you find it, this means your reference URL is up-and-running. Yet, if you don’t see the tag, don’t worry. Sometimes, pages use particular HTML formatting that does not illustrate canonical tags. If you face such a challenge, open your Google Lighthouse and find the “Generate Report” section. After you get the report, click “SEO,” then go to “Not Applicable,” and proceed to “Content Best Practices.” There you can see whether your canonical tag is valid.
As a result, with the correct canonical tag, you can be sure search engines understand which page’s version is the master one. In short, it will help engines like Google and Bing identify your website much better. Some technical site audits do not include this step. However, if you don’t have proper canonical tags, a search engine will be challenged in choosing which page to index as the main.
5. Google Search Console Evaluation
When done with canonical tags, proceed to Google Search Console. It will show the overall health of your website. First, you need to access the Search Console and create an account if you don’t already have one. Second, open your tool and verify whether your site’s protocol and domain match the live version. To illustrate, you need to double-check whether “https://website.com” is not the same as “https://www.website.com.” Essentially, Google Search Console that your website is available and the live version is the correct one. If any issues are illustrated, ensure the protocol, domains, and subdomains match the live version.
6. Looking at Manual Activities
The next step of your technical website auditing also requires Google Search Console. When accessing the tool, you will see a navigation bar on the left side of the interface. There, look for “Security & Manual Actions.” Then, proceed to “Manual Actions.” This section shows whether a reviewer at Google checked your website and indicated its compliance with Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines. Besides, you can see whether any penalties were imposed on your site. Essentially, if your website experiences some critical underperformance, there is a chance it was demoted in Google’s index. Therefore, if you find any penalties or issues in the “Manual Actions” segment, use this Manual Actions report to resolve them.
7. Identifying Website’s Speed
If there are no penalties and demotions on your website, it is time to check your website’s speed. Recently, Google presented a Page Experience Update to show the interlink between UX and SEO. Why is it important? According to research conducted by Google, the fastest websites offer the best user experience. In other words, if your page is slow, users will likely bounce.
Using Google PageSpeed Insights, you can receive all the advice needed to improve your website’s speed. These might apply to notions like Total Blocking Time (TBT) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). Google ensured you had all the information and tools to boost your PageSpeed score. That is why this step in SEO technical audit is one anyone can complete without prior knowledge of SEO.
8. Determining Mobile Adaptivity
As mentioned before, a good website should perform equally well on mobile devices and desktops. In such a case, checking whether your site is mobile adaptive is a step to technical audit SEO. Starting in 2016, Google has been updating its Mobile Indexing to ensure site owners do everything they can to make their platforms mobile friendly. As a result, Google has been investing much into making this step of SEO auditing as seamless as possible.
To check a website’s mobile adaptivity, you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. You either enter a URL or the site’s source code and test it. Besides, if at this point you got used to Google Search Console, you can check mobile-friendliness there as well. Go to the tool’s interface, find “Enhancements,” and then “Mobile Usability.” There you can generate a report, and the software will tell you whether there are any problems with your website’s mobile design. Finally, it will give clues and hints on how to improve the design and deal with any potential mobile adaptivity issues.
9. Searching for Indexation Problems
At this point, we know that Google Search Console directly connects to Google’s indexation. So during this technical SEO site audit stage, you need to double-check whether your website doesn’t have any errors that can prevent Google from indexing it properly. To do that, go to Google Search Console, and select “Coverage” from the menu on the left. There you can find out if there are any listed errors linked to the page’s validity.
Moreover, to check indexation, you can use Google Lighthouse. First, go to the plugin and select “Options.” Then, click “Generate Report,” and you will get all the information on indexation and page validity. Notably, the drops in indexed pages might suggest issues with 404-type errors—more on that in the later steps.
10. Examining Potential 404 Errors
In short, if a page has 404s type errors, your site has broken links. To illustrate, a user clicks on a link, and instead of being taken to the desired page, they see a 404 error. Without a doubt, this will drastically thwart their user experience. What is more, these errors will harm overall site performance. As mentioned above, you can use Google Search Console to determine whether Google found 404s on your site.
When locating all the 404s, you have two options for dealing with them. First, you can go through Google Search Console documentation and find the resolutions. Second, you can use this tool and have all the 404s automatically detected. Besides, the software will show potential ways to resolve the errors and boost your site’s indexation and overall performance. As a result, this technical SEO audit step is necessary if you find any 404s.
11. Making Sitemap Visible
When you have dealt with indexation and fixed broken links, it is time to focus on sitemap visibility. While Google can index your site without a sitemap, having one is highly advised. It makes SEO results much faster. In short, a sitemap is a file with all the information on pages, content elements, and links between them. In addition, Google can use a sitemap for crawling. As a result, it helps the algorithm to index your website more easily.
You can check the sitemap via “/sitemap.xml.” It is a URL from your main domain. You can check for sitemaps with Google Search Console. Just select the “Sitemaps” section on the left panel. It is always a great idea to check whether your sitemap is still relevant and up-to-date. While most content management systems (CMS) update sitemaps automatically, sometimes they can fail. Finally, this technical SEO audit step shows if your sitemap has any 404 errors and redirects. While we know how to deal with 404s, let’s turn to redirects next.
12. Focusing on Redirects
Finding redirects is a common practice. Luckily, there are tools available to fix the issue. This instrument help deals with redirects. It can be used to both locate and fix them. In a nutshell, there are so-called 301 and 302 redirects. The first ones are permanent, while the second ones are temporary. If you plan for your website to operate for longer periods, you should keep 301s and get rid of 302s. If you do not want to use the tool we mentioned above, an entire community is showing how to eliminate 302 redirects. As a rule of thumb, keep the redirects corresponding to your website’s potential lifespan. Planning to have it for a long time and keep 301s intact.
13. Emphasizing Secure Protocols
This technical SEO audit phase revolves around security. In a nutshell, there is HyperTedy Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). As an extension of HTTP, it is best to use HTTPS. Otherwise, if you have a non-secure version of the site and it does not have either 301 or 302 redirects, it means you have two or more website versions. As a result, it would be hard for Google to index and secure them.
In such a context, to avoid having two or more site versions, which downgrade their functionality and security, you can use canonicalization and 301 redirects, as mentioned above. These methods tell a search engine that there is a new website version. After you have dealt with the duplication, it is time to focus on security. You can get a perspective on your website’s security by checking the homepage and product pages for HTTPS. Besides, you can tap into Google Lighthouse. Go to the plugin, and check the “Best Practices” segment in the “Options” section. There you can generate a report. After the information is generated, you can see whether the site uses or doesn’t use HTTPS.
14. Content Auditing
After you finish redirects and secure protocols, it is time to proceed to the content. Essentially, good content on your website keeps users engaged and interested. However, apart from being engaging, it should be SEO-friendly as well. During this technical SEO audit stage, we will discuss different ways to find and deal with mixed content which thwarts your SEO and user-friendliness score.
Let’s talk about duplicate content. This type of content can confuse search engineers. When there are duplicates on the website, Google will have difficulty ranking and indexing them correctly. Besides, from the user’s perspective, duplicate content means you were sloppy and did not audit your site accurately. In such a case, Google recommends a simple way to find potential duplicates. Just copy around ten words from the page and paste them with quotation marks in the Google search bar. Then, if there are duplicate pages, the search engine will show that. Besides, a free duplicate checker tool makes the above process easier. As a result, you need to always audit your content for duplicates. Otherwise, you will face issues with SEO and user-friendliness.
15. Determining Incorrect and Hazardous Backlinks
The further important step in a technical website audit is locating and fixing suspicious backlinks. If your site is full of spam-like links, Google will indicate your website has low-quality content and will index your site accordingly. Other credible sites must endorse a website. In such a case, you can disclaim inks you don’t want in your content.
To deal with hazardous links, go to Google Search Console. First, find the “Links” box in the left panel. Then go to “Top Linking Sites” and choose “More.” When you have a list, skim it through and look for websites that look spammy or have improper domain names. Then, follow this procedure to disavow those links. As a result, you can get rid of suspicious links that downgrade your site’s ranking.
16. Evaluating Schema Markup
Finally, if you have any structured data on your site, you need to check it. This type of data is called schema. While it does not serve as a factor influencing SEO tracking, having valuable, structured data improves how your website appears in search results. Google offers a specific instrument to look for structured data. In the tool, you just submit the URL, and the software will show whether there are any problems with your website’s schema.
There is also another way to check for structured data. Go to Google Search Console and look for the “Enhancements” section. You can generate a report under the “Unparsable structured data” box. For example, it would offer information on any code that is unreadable. If the tool does not generate any reports, it shows you do not have any issues with schema. As a result, this step in the website technical audit can be viewed as a final touch to your overall SEO auditing process.
Final Words on Technical SEO Audit
After following all the steps above, there is always an opportunity to implement improvements to your website’s performance and health. A technical SEO audit is a great way to establish a robust strategy for making any site perform at the top of its capabilities. Keep in mind that you need to consider two key factors. First, people will interact with your website, and their experience will determine whether you get new clients or not. Second, if the site does not have good SEO fundamentals, people won’t see your site in their search results in the first place.
Look for the different issues we mentioned before. Then, deal with them at once. This will help tap into your website’s full potential. Otherwise, your site may appear in the eternal void, which is everything past the second page of Google search results.