SEO Website Audits: The Top Technical Items We Run Into
When it comes to optimizing your website for search, there are several factors you need to think about. Opinions will vary on what thing is the most important to tackle in that moment.
Most will agree, however, that the first thing you MUST do is review and fix the technical aspects of your website. You need to lay a strong foundation before you build anything else – otherwise you’ll sink before you even open your doors.
Below, find a brief overview of the top SEO technical items we look for in our SEO technical audits. This is by no means comprehensive, but it covers the main issues we tend to run into with our clients.
SEO Audit Tools
There are several tools you can use to run SEO audits on your site. They run the gamut from free to high monthly fees for bundled services, so you have to find what works for you. Some free examples include:
- SEOptimer.com (This is a very basic audit tool that will give you some starting ideas about your site). This tool will check your meta data, keyword consistency, robots, usability and sitemap information.
- You can also sign up for a 30 day free trial of the Moz SEO suite of tools and run through an audit there. This should be a fairly comprehensive source of information.
- SEOmator.com also offers a basic, free tool that allows you to save a PDF of your site issues.
Unfortunately, free tools won’t give you the deep dive you really need to understand the breadth of issues with your site, and how to fix them. That’s why many people turn to SEO agencies with access to comprehensive tools and data to perform site audits and explain their results.
Without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Top Technical Issues Our SEO Agency Runs Into
Whenever we onboard a new SEO client, there are several red flags we look out for first:
- Is the site crawl-able by Google bots? Are all pages we want to be seen by Google, able to be seen? (No index/no follow tags are heading toward obscurity, though).
- Is the website secure? (Is HTTPS enabled/across the whole site?)
- Are there a large number of broken links (404 errors)? These impact the ability of the Google bots to properly navigate the site.
- What’s the load speed like on the site? The slower it is, the worse the site performs.
- Does the site render properly on mobile?
- Are the correct pages included in the sitemap?
The above issues are the ones we would consider absolutely critical to continuing with an SEO project. Without fixing errors like these, our chances of success with later optimizations are almost certainly going to be negatively impacted.
The next issues we would pursue on a site are content focused:
- Is there duplicate content anywhere on the site?
- Are title tags and meta descriptions missing, too long, or too short?
- Is the content on the site substantial enough, or are there a lot of pages with low word count? More content issues to look out for according to recent Google algorithm changes are outlined here.
- Are there too many, too little, or incorrectly written H1 headings?
Site Structure and More
Next, let’s review the site’s overall structure. Does it take too many clicks to get to an important page on the site? If so, can we simplify the structure so that it is more straightforward?
Other things we look for:
- There should be a solid internal linking strategy in place. The pages on your site should connect to each other so that Google can logically move from one to another.
- Are there any temporary redirects in place (302s?). If so, those need to become permanent.
- Are redirect loops are significant problem? We try to avoid making site navigation too complicated for Google. Things become especially complicated when one page redirects to another, which then redirects back to the original page. You can leave Google running in circles, which will certainly impact how Google views usability of your website.
- Do site images have ALT text? A site audit will almost always come back with plenty of missing ALT text. We always recommend optimizing images where possible, but leave it up to the site owner as to the priority of this task.
All of the above items should not only be addressed, but should also inform your entire SEO strategy going forward. Not a lot of content on the site? Meta data incorrect? Guess what your team should spend time optimizing for the first quarter of SEO work?!
Of course, pacing differs client by client and site by site (smaller informational sites are going to go quite a bit faster than larger ecommerce sites, for example).
We spend a lot of time working on our technical audits and fixes, and we tend to bundle them with our keyword research phase. To us, these two highly important steps in the SEO process are key to ensuring your strategy is on the right course from the start.
This would be the next step in the audit process – though you should have already been exposed to the backlink profile of the site when you were pitching/beginning work. Doing a deep dive for toxic links is an important part of the audit as a whole – especially if you have to disavow some domains – but focusing on the foundation of the site is still more critical in the beginning phases of a project.
Feel like we missed something? Tell us in the comments!