Technical site audit: What to know and how to begin
What is a technical site audit?
A technical site audit for SEO is a comprehensive evaluation of a website’s technical aspects. Its main focus is to identify issues that may affect its search engine performance and visibility.
What is a technical site audit
The process involves examining various elements of a website’s infrastructure and configuration to ensure it is optimized for search engines and user experience.
When to do a technical site audit?
A technical site audit should be conducted at various stages throughout a website’s lifecycle to ensure optimal performance and visibility. Here are some key situations when it is advisable to perform a technical SEO audit:
- Website launch or redesign: It helps ensure that all technical elements are properly implemented and configured. This prevents any potential issues that may negatively impact search engine indexing or user experience.
- Declining search engine rankings: It may uncover technical problems that hinder search engine crawlers or user accessibility. You will then be able to address those issues and regain lost visibility.
- Major algorithm updates: Auditing the technical elements can help you adapt your website to the latest SEO requirements, maintaining or improving your rankings.
- Website migration or platform change: You can identify potential pitfalls during the migration process and ensure a smooth transition while preserving valuable metrics.
- Periodic maintenance: This allows you to identify and address any emerging technical issues promptly. Your website will remain optimized for search engines and provide an excellent user experience.
When should you do a technical site audit?
Remember, a technical site audit is not a one-time event. Websites evolve over time, and technical issues can arise at any point. Therefore, periodic audits, along with ongoing monitoring and maintenance, are crucial to keep your website technically sound and SEO-friendly.
Benefits of a technical site audit
Conducting a technical site audit offers several benefits that can positively impact your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) and overall performance. Here are some key benefits:
How can a technical site audit benefit you?
- Improved search engine visibility: Optimizing technical elements such as crawlability, indexability, and structured data can enhance your website’s chances of ranking higher.
- Enhanced user experience: Fixing issues can create a seamless browsing experience, leading to increased user satisfaction, longer on-site engagement, and improved conversion rates.
- Identification of on-page optimization opportunities: Examining metadata, URL structure, and header tags will help enhance the overall SEO performance of your web pages.
- Prevention of SEO penalties: Some issues you may find during a site audit include duplicate content, broken redirects, or improper implementation of canonical tags. Proactively addressing issues of your site will minimize the risk of penalties from search engines, ensuring your site visibility.
- Adaptation to algorithm updates: Search engines frequently update their algorithms, which can impact your website’s rankings. Thanks to the insights obtained from site audits, you can make necessary adjustments to align with the updated algorithms. Doing so will maintain the competitiveness of your website on search engines.
- Competitive advantage: Conducting a technical site audit gives you an edge over competitors who may overlook or neglect their website’s technical aspects. This may help you overtake said competitors and attract more organic traffic, gaining an advantage in the industry.
How to do a technical site audit
A technical site audit involves a variety of tasks to evaluate the overall health of your website. You will need to examine various technical aspects and address problems, if necessary, to improve your website performance.
Address crawl and index problems
Addressing crawl and index problems is a crucial task in a technical site audit. It plays a role in ensuring that search engines can effectively see and display your website’s content. Here are specific tasks involved in addressing crawl and index problems:
- Identify crawl issues: Use tools or site crawlers to identify any crawl issues on your website. Common crawl issues include broken links, server errors (e.g., 5xx errors), and pages blocked by robots.txt.
- Review robots.txt: The robots.txt file instructs search engine bots on which parts of your website to crawl and which parts to exclude. Ensure that important sections of your website are not inadvertently blocked by the robots.txt file. Make necessary adjustments to allow crawling of relevant pages.
- Check XML sitemap: XML sitemaps help search engines discover and understand the structure of your website. Ensure that your XML sitemap is up to date and includes all important pages. properly submitted to search engines through Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Monitor your changes: After implementing changes, monitor the impact on crawl and indexing performance. Use tools and analytics data to assess improvements in indexing and organic traffic. Keep an eye on crawl reports in Google Search Console and address any new issues that may arise.
Examine site architecture
Site architecture is a key aspect of a technical site audit as it helps assess the organization of the website. Here is a step-by-step process for examining site architecture:
Check your website structure during a site audit
- Understand the website’s structure: Start by gaining a clear understanding of the website’s structure and organization. Analyze the main categories, sections, and subdirectories to identify the overall hierarchy of the website.
- Evaluate navigation menus: Assess if the menus are clear, logical, and intuitive for users to navigate through the website. Ensure that important pages are easily accessible and arranged appropriately.
- Analyze breadcrumb trails: Breadcrumb trails provide hierarchical navigation paths to help users understand their current location within the website’s structure. Ensure that they are present on all relevant pages and reflect the website’s hierarchy accurately.
- Review URL structure: URLs should be concise, descriptive, and reflect the content of each page. Check for any instances of dynamically generated or excessively long URLs, as these can negatively impact SEO and user experience.
- Check for orphaned pages: Orphaned pages are those that are not linked from any other page within the website. Then, determine if they serve a purpose or if they should be linked appropriately within the website’s architecture.
- Evaluate pagination: Assess if pagination URLs are structured correctly and include rel=prev/next tags to signal to search engines the relationship between paginated pages.
- Analyze conversion paths: Evaluate how users navigate through the website and interact with conversion paths, such as contact forms or shopping carts. Identify any barriers or inefficiencies in the user flow and suggest improvements to enhance user experience and goal completion.
Repair internal links
Repairing broken internal links is vital in a technical site audit. This task will help you improve user experience by ensuring that visitors can navigate your website without encountering error pages. Additionally, search engines can properly crawl and index your website, leading to better visibility and rankings in search results.
- Identify broken internal links: Use a website crawler to scan your website and identify any broken internal links. These are links that point to non-existent or inaccessible pages on your website.
- Locate the source: Determine the web pages containing the broken links. Analyze the context of the links and their anchor text to understand where they are located and how they are used within your website.
- Update or replace broken links: Edit the source pages to update or replace the broken links with valid URLs. Ensure that the new links are pointing to relevant and functioning pages on your website.
- Test the links: After updating the internal links, thoroughly test them to ensure they are working correctly. Click on each link to verify that it leads to the intended destination page without any errors or issues.
Fix duplicate content
Duplicate content is one of the pressing matters that need to be addressed during a technical site audit. It may confuse search engines, leading to them displaying a less preferable version on the SERPs.
Make sure to check for duplicate content
- Identify duplicate content: Use auditing tools to identify instances of duplicate content on your website.
- Determine the source: Analyze the duplicate content to determine the original or preferred version. This helps in understanding which version should be indexed by search engines.
- Implement a solution: Make the necessary technical changes to implement the chosen solution. This may involve adding canonical tags, configuring URL parameters, setting up redirects, or merging content.
- Update XML sitemaps: Update your XML sitemaps to reflect the changes made and ensure that search engines can discover and crawl the preferred versions of the content.
- Monitor and verify: Check for any remaining instances of duplication and to ensure the preferred versions are being indexed.
Check your website performance
Checking website performance as part of a technical site audit involves evaluating the speed and responsiveness of the website. For this task, you will need tools like GTmetrix, PageSpeed Insights, or WebPageTest. These tools analyze factors such as page load time, server response time, and resource optimization.
- Measure page load speed: Determine how quickly the website loads on both desktop and mobile devices. Identify any bottlenecks that may cause delays, such as large image files, excessive HTTP requests, or inefficient code.
- Evaluate server response time: Assess the time it takes for the server to respond to user requests. Analyze server-side factors like hosting quality, server configuration, and caching mechanisms.
- Monitor performance metrics: Keep an eye on key performance metrics like time to first byte (TTFB), first contentful paint (FCP), and cumulative layout shift (CLS). Continuously track these metrics and strive to improve them over time.
- Implement performance optimizations: Based on the findings, implement recommended performance optimizations. This may involve minifying code, leveraging browser caching, optimizing images, and adopting content delivery networks (CDNs) to enhance website speed.
Check for mobile-friendliness
As search engines have changed their approach to prioritize mobile devices, optimizing your website for mobile is a must. This is why evaluating compatibility with mobile devices is indispensable in a technical site audit. The process typically involves checking the following factors:
- Mobile responsiveness: Test the website’s responsiveness across different screen sizes and resolutions to ensure that the layout adjusts properly.
- User experience: Pay attention to factors like font size, button sizes, spacing between elements, touch sensitivity, etc.
- Page speed: Use tools like PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix to identify any performance issues and optimize loading times.
- Mobile-friendly features: Mobile-friendly features can be click-to-call functionality for phone numbers, maps with interactive directions, or integration with mobile apps. These features enhance the mobile user experience and make it easier for users to engage with the website.
- Mobile-friendly configuration: This includes having a responsive design that uses CSS media queries and proper viewport settings. Conversely, avoid common mobile compatibility issues like using Flash or pop-ups that may not work on mobile devices.
- Mobile SEO: Assess the website’s mobile SEO aspects, such as mobile XML sitemap, proper canonical tags for mobile pages, and ensuring that mobile versions of pages are not blocked by robots.txt. Mobile optimization is important for search engine rankings, particularly in the mobile-first indexing era.
Fix code problems
During a technical site audit, you need to examine several types of codes to ensure proper implementation:
An audit will show you all problems that need addressing
- Meta tag: Meta tags are HTML elements that provide information about a web page to search engines and website visitors. Auditing meta tags involves reviewing their length, relevance to the content, and proper usage of keywords.
- Canonical tag: Canonical tags are HTML elements that specify the preferred version of a web page when multiple versions with similar content exist. During an audit, canonical tags are examined to ensure they are correctly implemented and pointing to the desired canonical URL.
- Hreflang attribute: The hreflang attribute is used to indicate language and regional targeting of web pages in multilingual and multinational websites. Check their accuracy, consistency, and proper implementation to ensure effective language targeting.
- Structured data: Structured data is a standardized format used to provide additional context and information about web page content to search engines. Auditing structured data involves checking its implementation, adherence to schema markup standards, and proper association with relevant page elements.
Check https protocol issues
Maintaining the HTTPS protocol in a technical site audit involves the following steps:
- Ensure SSL Certificate: Verify that a valid SSL certificate is installed and active on the website’s server. This certificate enables the HTTPS protocol, encrypts data transmitted between the server and users’ browsers, and establishes a secure connection.
- Check redirects: Confirm that HTTP URLs redirect to their corresponding HTTPS versions using 301 redirects. This ensures that all traffic is redirected to the secure version of the website.
- Update internal and external links: Update all links within and outside the website to the HTTPS versions. This helps maintain a consistent and secure browsing experience for users.
- Update content delivery network (CDN): If you are using a CDN, ensure that it supports HTTPS. Make necessary configurations are in place to serve content securely over HTTPS.
- Monitor mixed content: Regularly monitor the website for any mixed content issues, where secure HTTPS pages contain insecure HTTP elements. Resolve such issues by updating the content to be served securely over HTTPS.
- Maintain HSTS header: Consider implementing HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) header. It instructs browsers to only access the website via HTTPS, even if HTTP links are used. This adds an extra layer of security and prevents potential downgrade attacks.
Deal with problematic status codes
Problematic status codes can be a hassle in website administration. Dealing with these codes in a technical site audit involves the following tasks:
Fix status codes like 404 during a site audit
- Identify problems: During the site audit, examine the server responses to determine if there are any problematic status codes. The most common ones include 404 (Page Not Found), 301 (Permanent Redirect), and 302 (Temporary Redirect).
- Analyze causes: Determine the causes behind the problematic status codes. For example, 404 errors may occur due to broken links or deleted pages, while improper redirect configurations can result in 301 or 302 redirects.
- Resolve 404 errors: Fix broken links by updating them to point to the correct URLs or by creating appropriate redirects. If pages are permanently removed, consider implementing custom 404 pages to guide users and search engines.
- Correct redirect issues: For 301 redirects, ensure they are used when the content permanently moves to a new location. For temporary redirects (302), ensure they are implemented correctly and used for temporary situations only.
Analyze log files
Lastly, analyzing log files is an essential task in a technical site audit. It involves these simple steps:
- Obtaining log files: Access and obtain the log files from the web server, which record every request made to the website. It includes information such as the requested URLs, user agents, response codes, and timestamps.
- Parsing and filtering: Use log analysis tools or scripts to parse and filter the log files. This process extracts relevant data and filters out unnecessary information, such as requests for static files or bots.
- Cross-referencing with other data: Combine log file analysis with data from other sources to gain a comprehensive understanding of your website’s performance and user behavior.
Analyzing log files can gain you valuable insights into how search engine bots interact with your website, detect crawl and performance issues, and optimize your website for better visibility and user experience.
Tools for technical site audit
The technical site audit process involves many complicated tasks, so there is no doubt that you will need to employ some tools to help you out. Here are some popular options for your reference:
Enlist the help of tools to simplify the process
- Google Search Console: This free tool provided by Google allows you to monitor your website’s performance in search results.
- Screaming Frog: Screaming Frog is a powerful desktop tool that crawls websites and provides detailed analysis of various technical aspects.
- SEMrush: It offers a Site Audit feature that scans your website for technical issues, provides recommendations for improvement, and tracks progress over time.
- Moz Pro: Moz Pro is another comprehensive SEO tool that includes a Site Crawl feature for a technical site audit.
- Ahrefs: Ahrefs is primarily known for its backlink analysis capabilities, but it also offers a Site Audit feature.
- GTmetrix: GTmetrix is a website performance testing tool that analyzes your website’s loading speed and provides actionable insights for optimization.
- Lighthouse: Lighthouse is an open-source tool provided by Google that focuses on website performance and accessibility.
A technical site audit plays a vital role in ensuring a website’s optimal performance and visibility in search engine results. By thoroughly examining various technical aspects, potential website issues can be identified and resolved.
This comprehensive analysis helps improve search engine rankings, enhances user experience, prevents penalties, and ensures alignment with evolving SEO requirements. By conducting regular technical site audits and addressing the identified issues, website owners can maintain a robust and SEO-friendly online presence, ultimately driving organic traffic and achieving their digital goals.
On Digitals offer SEO services involving comprehensive site audits and resolving issues to improve your website performance and search engine rankings. Contact On Digitals to know more about what we can do to help you grow your brand online.
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