Trust me: the words “Technical SEO Audit” are your friend when it comes to leaping upward in page rankings and finding SEO flaws in short order. While a full SEO audit may bring to mind pages and pages of minutia and long hours of work, focusing on a technical SEO audit is a less daunting task. By focusing on the mechanical and algorithmic relationship between the search engines and your website allows you to focus in and identify technical issues that might be holding your website down in the rankings. Fixing these SEO flaws quickly can lead to SEO improvements quickly and we have seen some websites show results in as little as 30 – 60 days.
If you have never performed a technical audit, or if it has been a long time (and a lot more web content), consider what a technical audit can offer you in terms of traffic, rankings, and most importantly in your overall SEO strategy.
The Benefits of A Quality Technical SEO Audit
Audits are created to pick up on the web design flaws – many of them outward facing – that you may have missed, forgotten about, or known about but forgotten to fix in the effort to keep up with trends and create new content. Audits spot a number of technical problems, like search engine errors, URL problems, title tag flaws, issues with robots.txt files…and many other issues.
Even if the average online consumer never notices these problems, search engines certainly do, which is why audits can be so useful. They spot the problems that search engine algorithms pay close attention to, small flaws that cost you significant page rankings. They also improve your SEO by finding problems with your meta data, unresponsive links, webmaster compliancy…all the little things that quickly add up to negatively impact your SEO.
Because algorithms and weighted factors shift over time, it’s a good idea to periodically conduct a technical audit of your website to spot unexpected issues that may have cropped up without you knowing it. Some of the things SEOs are looking for these days might surprise you, but ask a few questions and I am sure they will gladly explain why they are looking at a specific item. A good example is Time On Site which is a very popular marketing or conversion metric as Google (and probably Bing) measure what search engines refer to as ‘dwell time’ which is how long do searchers click on a link, dwell on the website and then return back to their search engine. Longer dwell times that become statistically significant can indicate to the search engine that users really like your website and that the search engine should rank you higher.
Are Free Audits and Online Tools Useful?
If, in a rush of enlightenment, you were to hop online right now and search for technical SEO audits, you may find several free options available. Yes, free technical SEO Audits are a legitimate option, but you are unlikely to get the full benefit of a true audit from them. This is because:
- Free tools rarely cover all technical aspects of web design. They may specialize in certain areas, such as linking and URL issues, but they rarely give a complete picture. A related problem is that free online tools are less likely to update their procedures to take into account the latest
- Free tools have limited functionality. They may show you a certain set of problems that your site has, but they rarely offer any tools you help you fix these issues. More advanced audit services provide you with both a list of technical problems and tools or advice for solutions.
- Free tools rely solely on automated processes. Pure software automation is not always reliable and tends to be limited in scope. More professional services often use human auditors that can explain what errors mean, spot broader problems with web design, and offer you a human point of contact instead of data lists.
In summary, while free SEO tools can be a useful starting place when spotting technical errors, they have limited capabilities for spotting all problems and providing you with recommendations on fixing your errors.
So, What Should an Audit Cover?
There are a lot of different ways that SEOs talk about what to check in a full SEO audit, here are just a few basic things that are on the list to check.
- Google Site Search: A lot of basic site searches can unveil some pertinent information, such as how easily the homepage shows up in the first results, and what Google thinks about your brand names and key pages. This is usually for finding the signs of technical problems that deserve a closer examination, usually in tags and architecture.
- Architecture: An audit will look at architecture hierarchy and flow to spot any issues with your categories, navigation system, landing pages and more. Flaws here can escape notice and quickly grow if you have expanded your website recently. Audits will also look at internal linking and other practices to spot any trouble areas.
- Title Tags & Meta Descriptions: Are title tags and meta tags used properly? Do they help searchers find the right pages? Do they use the right keywords and branding? Do they need to be rewritten for better effect?
- Content Quality: A technical review will also ask quite a few questions about content, not just about quality but about how content on your site looks and behaves. Your technical audit here will reveal pages where you do not have enough content, pages where your keywords are not working as intending, how your headlines function, how your content and your ad strategies compare. Content audits also usually look for any duplicate content or other duplicate issues.
- Link Profile: Have you received any notices from Google for violating their guidelines? Do you have any toxic links that need removed or disavowed? Do you have a good mix of non-branded and branded keywords? Have you ever built links too fast? Are you promoting your website properly so that your link profile is comparable to your competitors?
These are just a few of the general areas that an audit will cover. Basically, you want someone to sit down, look at all the details, study all the data and then put together a list of things that you need to do. Sound good, well then it’s time to think about how to get started.
Getting Your Audit
To learn more about getting a full technical audit, check out the Volume Nine SEO Audit Service to see what they offer (Yes, this is my company!). If you want to test the waters first and see if you may have some problems, start with a few simple tools. Screaming Frog mimics a search engine and sends it own spiders through your site to look for holes in web design. Google’s Webmaster toolset can also offer some insight into how your site is performing.
If you do find flaws, there’s no reason to worry: There are many different solutions you can implement to improve your SEO and functionality. From improving your website page speed to retooling your meta descriptions, these fixes can make your site faster and more effective at driving traffic – while saving you from making similar mistakes in the future. In other words, the phrase “technical audit” should mean that great advice, help and even better rankings are all on their way.