The value of conducting an in-depth SEO audit is essential for any webmaster looking to drive more relevant traffic to their website. Remember: performing an in depth technical SEO audit is an extensive process and some factors can be more important than others, and as usual the primary goal is to add value to your site both in the short-term with some quick wins and then sustain and grow long-term.
Where do you start? Your first step should be collecting the right tools - to start with, preferably the right ones that won't blow your budget, but will help you view your current positions. Here is my personal shortlist:
Surprised I’ve only listed four? The truth is, it is not about the number, but knowledge and ability to use the tools to their potential. Ok tools acquired….where to focus? I've broken this down into five key areas that are most important to technical SEO right now...
1. Access - Is my door open?
Checking the indexation and crawlability of your website is like making sure your shop door is open. If you perform poorly it’s essentially like putting up a “We are closed” sign. If a search bot can’t crawl a page on your site, then it certainly won’t be able to show that page to a user who might want to find the information relevant to their query. To avoid such problems, you should take a look at two major components: your XML Sitemap and Robots.txt.
XML Sitemap – Simply put, it's a list of URLs on your website that you would like to submit to search engines to index. The information it contains (as well as when the site was last updated, how often it changes, and how important it is in relation to other URLs in the site) allows search engines to crawl the site more intelligently. Furthermore, it’s a quick way to tell Google when fresh content has been published to a website, and which content pieces are originals which will aid in ranking improvements over time.
Robots.txt - Known as the robot’s exclusion protocol, is a standard protocol used by websites to communicate with web crawlers and other web robots. The protocol specifies how to inform the web robot about which particular areas of the website should not be processed or scanned, and therefore shouldn't be indexed and/or listed on search engines. If you have any content on your website that you wouldn't like to be searchable on Google (i.e. test pages, hidden landing pages, etc.) make sure they're included in your Robots.txt file.
2. Location - Where are you from?
If your site is international and you serve several countries, have you told Google as much? In SEO jargon this is called International Targeting. Very often we encounter sites that either misunderstand or misuse international targeting, causing their site to show incorrect language versions in the wrong countries.
From href-lang tags and canonicals through to country targeting, Google Search Console offers some great guidelines and information, showing you precisely which pages on your site have issues, so you can identify the problem straight away and fix issues. Google's help giude to href-lang tags is a nice little resource, which also makes clear the most common mistakes.
3. Redirects - I’m lost, can you help me?
When deleting or moving pages around on your site, you want to make sure the proper steps have been taken to ensure you don't break the user experience whilst minimising the loss of inbound links. Therefore, sometimes deleting content is the best step, even if people are still visiting it.
When you delete content from your site that's still indexed on Google, getting visits and/or getting referral traffic as it's placed on other websites, be sure to put a 301 redirect in place to take visitors to the second most relevant page.
Sometimes there won't be similar content on your site so a 301 wouldn't be appropriate, however, in this case a custom 404 page should inform people where to find other important resources on your website. Canva lists out 50 of the most creative 404 pages on the web if you're looking for a bit of inspiration.
4. Speed – The need for speed
It’s all about the speed these days and it’s no difference if it comes to your website. Here are the hard facts:
How Important is Load time for SEO?
Speed is important of course, but how much does each second really count?
It kills your conversion rates. Amazon did tests that showed they would lose $1.6 BILLION every year if their site slowed down by just one second!
It has a long term negative impact as customers will slowly stop referring your service to others because of a poor experience. What's more, established websites are less likely to link back to your content. A real bummer for anyone trying to build links (i.e. anyone working on your site's SEO).
4. Mobile – You use your mobile for browsing….so do your customers!
Nothing new here, but we are still surprised how many sites have still not optimized for mobile. Mobile technology has continuously been a part of everyday life for long time, however, it's far too often that we come across websites that haven't been optimised for mobile browsing.
In 2016, mobile users surpassed desktop in Internet traffic. Today, just over 52% of all Internet users browse websites from a smartphone. This means that more than half of the users visiting your site are doing so using mobiles or tablet devices . Change the mindset from it being a challenge, but instead a unique opportunity to expand your business. What's more, Google is really pushing sites to shift towards Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to (in their words) "make the web better for all" - you can learn more about the AMP Project here.
Interested in learning how your website is currently performing against the above, but not quite ready to undertake the audit process yourself? We can help you out if you request a Free SEO audit on our site. This isn't just a report we automatically generate either - one of our SEO consultants will work together with you to access the data they need and help you review your current positions and make recommendations to improve your rankings.