What is a technical audit? This is how I do it.
What is a technical audit?
A technical audit is an analysis of a website with the goal of discovering actions to improve the site’s ranking in organic (free) search results. Everyone has a slightly different approach, so I’m sharing with you how I work through mine.
When you might need an audit
There are a number of different reasons why you might want or need an ad-hoc technical audit. Those include:
- Organic traffic declines: after a platform change, website design update, website migration, consolidation, or other major content-, technical or link event.
- Proactive planning: during migrations and design changes especially, it’s often smart to get a consultant to advise and audit in all phases of the website changes, from initial requirements to development, testing and launch.
- Not meeting Google Webmaster Guidelines: this could include having hidden content, or blocking content, or otherwise trying to deceive Google and other search engines.
- Poor website user experience: whether it’s speed, a less-than-optimised mobile site, or a non-secure website all these can and do impact the way search engines and Google see and rank your website organically.
How often should you have an audit done?
Depending on your industry and marketing strategy, annual or half-yearly audits would be the best route.
Generally annual checkups are a good idea – web technologies, the internet and people’s expectations of the internet are constantly changing, so even if you built a tip-top website last year, this year things are likely to be different in the next.
What’s included in a technical audit
Technical, on-site audits will look at things like:
- Content analysis: including topical focus and refinement review, and understanding the entity relationships in the content, as well as the level of detail or depth your current content has. Are you using the language and keywords you should be using?
- Related site analysis: While we all want to be competing against ourselves rather than our competitors, it’s important to know the lay of the land, when it’s relevant. For example, if your competitors aren’t using Schema in a vertical where there’s an active search result variant, implementing Schema yourself may end up higher on the list of actions.
- Crawl analysis: Especially for enterprise sites, it’s critical to understand if Google is seeing only the pages on your site you want it to see. This would involve reviewing Google’s index for your website, and log file analysis if required.
- Backlink analysis: including toxic backlink review, (alongside any previously submitted reconsideration requests or disavow requests), we want to make sure that your backlink profile is healthy.
What are the benefits?
I’ve seen clients who proactively and efficiently implement our technical recommendations increase year-on-year organic traffic by 25% while also increasing conversion rate by a similar amount. At a broader level, a technical SEO audit helps you understand your website – and your customer – better. An audit document (and prioritisation list) does this through:
- Content opportunities: part of understanding if your website is organised in a way that makes sense to search engines is finding out the content they expect, and if there are any gaps, and if there are more efficent ways to organise your current content.
- Existing relationships and opportunities: because this is essentially what your backlink profile is – a map of your relationships, made visible to Google and other search engines.
- Accessibility standards: a good technical audit will address accessibility and UI, because what’s good for your users is generally good for search engines.
- Identifying tech debt: all websites have technical debt – a technical audit will put that into perspective and prioritise what may be limiting site performance in organic search results (and losing you customers or qualified traffic).
- Building organic visibility: perhaps the most conventional, this should help you increase organic traffic to your website, including increasing conversions through online sales or lead generation, as well as build visibility for relevant keywords
What about tools?
Tools can only take you so far, especially if you don’t have an in-house SEO team or only a limited SEO team to run with findings from those tools. They’re a good initial indicator – in fact, I’ll use a lot of free and paid tools in your audit.
If you’re looking for support in prioritising work and working within your company to get the work done, that’s where an SEO professional comes in.
I see beyond the tactical, and I won’t make a recommendation out-of-context like a tool may because it doesn’t know that x feature on y CMS doesn’t work for you because of z. I’ll look at your technical SEO strategically, in your market environment, take into consideration your resources and help you actually execute on the audit and see greater organic visibility and traffic to your site.