This column is authored by freelance digital marketer, Lucas Hindmarsh
What is an SEO Audit?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Audit is an evaluation of search engine friendliness of a website in a number of specific areas.
It identifies issues that need improvement, can be a basis for an action plan and helps to keep a website up-to-date with newest developments in a search marketing. General in-depth SEO Audit strategy usually includes 4 important parts:
- Technical Analysis
- On-Page Analysis
- Off-Page Analysis
- Competitive Analysis and Keyword Research
When is an SEO Audit needed?
Nowadays SEO industry is changing rapidly, as the content requirements set up by Google are quite high and are getting higher every day. So it is becoming more and more important to keep an eye on the website’s health. For that purpose, SEO industry has both SEO specialists and a number of automated tools.
Latest investigations recommend a quick SEO Analysis every month and in-depth full SEO Analysis once a quarter or at least twice a year, for the website to be competitive and well-visited. Also, it is important to do an SEO Audit at the beginning of a new project or before the first website release.
Why is Technical SEO Audit important?
As a part of a full SEO Audit, the technical analysis is a first thing to do, for it shows whether the website is working properly. If the website has a lot of technical issues, it affects general website performance and a number of visits.
Technical SEO Audit is aimed to ease the crawl and indexing the website in search engine, find broken links, improve rankings and optimize the overall speed of the website work.
It is a basis of the SEO Audit strategy. Technical analysis can be compared to a foundation of a house. If a foundation is bad or broken, everything else will be crooked too.
What is checked by Technical SEO Audit?
As already mentioned, technical analysis is the best place to start a complete SEO Audit. It will bring quick wins and will help to plan the basic improvement of the website. The main aspects to be checked are websites:
- Site Performance
Let’s make a short overview of each of them.
It is important to make sure that the website’s content is available for search engines. When this step contains even one single mistake, the website won’t be crawled by search engines, which leads to the lack of rankings, for nobody will be able to find such a website. This issue, though, is easy to find and fix. The most used are the Robots.txt Checker tool. It will find whether there are any pages blocked from crawling.
Accessibility checks up also include an investigation of HTTP Status Codes. The process is well-known. A crawler requests a specific page of a website, and a web server gives back an HTTP status code with a response. So the response code should be marked with the number 200, it would mean that everything is working fine. If a status code returns with 4xx or 5xx, it means something went wrong and has to be fixed.
Canonicalization is another important thing to check under Accessibility point. It is dealing with duplicated pages, like
For a user, all these URLs seem to be one page, but for a search crawler, each of them is a unique page. On this small example, we illustrate that there is a big number of duplicated URLs coming up when dealing with a single homepage. No need to talk about the entire website. Canonicalization is a process of creating a redirection of all these duplicated pages to an original one.
Interlinking is the last thing we will mention under Accessibility point. Interlinking is a process of creating internal links between all the pages of the website. If some of the pages stay isolated, crawler won’t be able to find them. Which also means visits decrease.
Checking accessibility of the website ensures the visibility of a website in the search engines. Now search engines are actually allowed to access the pages of the website. But this is not enough for a website to be visited.
Next thing in the check up list should be an investigation on how many of those accessible pages are indexed by web crawlers. The more pages of the website are indexed, the higher is the rating of the entire website and the higher status in a search queue.
To check websites indexability there are different tools, like Google Webmaster. They will point out how many pages of the website are indexed.
Speed. Is. Important. This is the big thing to remember when doing a technical analysis. Nowadays people tend to visit websites via smartphones or tablets, which usually means the usage of a slower mobile internet connection. If the website takes more than 5 seconds to load, nobody will wait. They simply сlick ‘return’ and go to the next search result. That’s why the speed of a website load is a very high priority.
There is plenty of different tools to check whether the website is running fast enough and whether it is compatible with smartphones and tablets. Each of them can be used.
2 Ways to Perform a Technical SEO Audit
SEO is becoming a big part of IT industry, and this rapid development hasn’t gone unnoticed. Industry’s ‘big players’ know how important is the upbringing of young specialists with a good insight on SEO tendencies. That is why SEO is not a rare topic for student’s works now. On contrary, students examine case studies of successful SEO strategies and write analytical works about the industry overall, about how SEO has changed and on a smooth adaptation to these changes.
SEO specialist becomes a popular and wanted position, even though it demands a detailed, attentive and patient attitude to websites analysis. The big increase is seen in developers creating of automated tools and applications for helping people to cope with all the necessary moments in SEO Audit. The industry is attracting a lot of attention.
Now, we can say, there are two main ways to perform a Technical SEO Audit for a website.
- Order Audit from SEO analyst
SEO specialist is someone who can perform an in-depth investigation, analyze every aspect of the website health, create a report about the issues and make a good plan how to improve them.
It is important to remember, that there is no need to pay to a ‘specialist’ who will only use automated tools and present the report done by programs. A true SEO specialist surely uses tools and applications, but still, he performs a deep analysis of the reports and creates a strategy to improve the situation.
- Use automated tools for SEO Audit
Also, there is an option to perform a Technical Audit without an SEO specialist, and it is available if you are familiar with SEO techniques and have good analytical skills. There is a number of tools and applications to do that. But, we should mention, it is a time-consuming process, that will demand patience, accuracy and strategic thinking. The application or tool most surely won’t come up with a brilliant solution to the web sites problems. The best thing it can do is to point them out. If you are enough self-confident, go straight to the next point of our article. We will briefly overview the most popular tools and applications to perform Technical SEO Audit.
Tools for Technical SEO Audit
- Screaming Frog or Xenu
Tools like Screaming Frog and Xenu check how many pages of the website are indexed. They allow to take a website and crawl through its pages like search engines do. These tools detect issues like as incorrect canonicalization, internal redirects and duplicated pages on different URLs. Screaming Frog is free to use if a website has less than 500 pages. If the website is bigger you would need either to pay for a Screaming Frog subscription (apr. 126$ per year for unlimited access) or use another tool, like Xenu, which is free of charge.
- IIS SEO Toolkit
Similarly to Screaming Frog, IIS SEO Toolkit works from the desktop and analyze web site’s how searchable the website is. Still, it differs a bit. It helps to improve web site’s relevance in search results by recommending how to make the site content more search engine-friendly.
- SEMrush Site Audit
SEMrush Site Audit advantage is crawling a website from a web browser, creating an online report with potential issues in an easy-to-read format with an option to export and perform offline analysis. Also, a customer benefits from comparative and historical sections. They show whether implemented changes had a good or bad SEO impact on the website.
- Pingdom DNS Check
A helpful tool to avoid crawl errors, check DNS health and whether DNS servers are set up correctly. Easy and quick check up to save nerves and time in future.
Is good for identifying areas of SEO concern. It checks the architecture of a domain and creates a report on its structure. So, the report will present the information on the server type, operating system, about the installed plugins, etc. So, the user knows the things that make up the website in advance and has the possibility to resolve the potential issues regarding them.
As we already know, speed really matters. Not a single user will stay on the website that takes ages to load. And by ‘ages’ here we mean ‘more than 5 seconds’ time.
A faster website is a website, that is crawled more. A faster website is attracting more visits. A faster website has good rankings.
GTmetrix is a free online tool, that goes through the page and shows the elements that have to be improved as they are causing a slow load. It also includes the history of a website speed, if used several times.
- Google Webmaster Tools
The name speaks for itself. Google nowadays is one of the most recognized brands and one of the most trusted. Its Webmaster Tools help a lot in defining issues with the on-page, link and technical health of a website. It is good in looking for crawl errors, to have a look on pages indexation, find structured data issues, blocked resources, and many others.
An SEO audit itself can be an exhausting thing to perform, still, it definitely will bring benefits for the website. Technical analysis is considered to be the basis of all the Audit. It indicates main technical issues and problems, including:
- Website’s accessibility
- Site Performance
Plenty of automated tools and applications are already developed to perform a technical audit quickly and easily. They differ in their functions and capabilities, but all of them are detail oriented and help to find even tiniest mistakes.
Still, a powerful tool called a human brain is still needed to perform analysis of all the automated reports and outline the state