A website Technical Audit is at times referred to as an SEO Technical Audit. This is due to the importance a search engine gives to different factors that determines the ranking position of a site.
A website owner serving the needs of an audience in the UK may not necessarily care if the website is hosted on a US server, as long as it delivers the content quick enough before a visitor would decide to leave due to slow load. However, by not hosting the site on a UK server could impact search ranking in Google UK.
Nonetheless, it is good practice for all to gain an understanding of the underlying framework that makes up a website.
Improving the quality of performance can have implications across all marketing channels.
Social Media relies heavily on content that is included when a page is shared. By ensuring Social Meta Tags are formatted correctly to include engaging titles, images, descriptions, author and date stamps will greatly influence the CTR (Click through rate).
Likewise, improving the speed of a page load and identifying 404 pages can influence ROI on paid activity. There is nothing worse than paying to bring targeted visitors to your website, only for them to leave because the site did not load quick enough or worse, the page does not exist.
In order to achieve outstanding outcomes from organic search alongside other marketing channels, we have learnt from our experience that you must act on the recommendations from a well developed SEO Technical Audit.
At DigitalMarketingROI we have a comprehensive audit process, attempting to cover all areas of on-site technical issues, ensuring that each and every component of these areas are checked, recommended actions are priorities and resolved.
To ensure that this process is thorough and manageable, we present the SEO Technical Audit as an action plan, with recommendations and priorities. Additional sheets include areas that require their own notes and checklists.
This list and sample SEO Technical Audit we decided to share, will not only prove to be comprehensive and useful, but practical for all levels of people to apply.
Domain and Server Review
Indexation, Crawling & Accessibility Review
Site Architecture Review
URL Structure Review
Duplicate Content Review
Semantic Mark Up Review
Site Speed Review
Images & Video Review
Title Tags, Headings & Metadata
Google Search Console Review
1. Domain Name(s)
The words contained within the domain name are known to be one of the ranking signals search engines consider. A review of the all the domains owned is required, e.g. misspelled or associated domains.
2. Mirrored Domains
Mirrored domains, such as IP addresses or load balanced domains can cause duplicate content issues.
3. Content Delivery Networks
Content Delivery Networks can help improve speed, but can cause duplicate content. If using HTTPS (secure) for canonical domain, the CDNs should also be hosted on HTTPS as opposed to HTTP.
4. Redirected Domains
A redirected domain is any URL which forwards onto another.
5. Server Type
The server type can have an impact on the ability of the SEO Team to provide effective recommendations.
6. Server Hosting Neighbourhood
It is important that the host IP address is not associated with any untrustworthy websites which can impact on rankings. Having performed a reverse IP domain check we can see that there are no other domains of concern.
7. GSC Indexation Status
The Index Status page in Google Search Console (GSC) provides stats about how many of your URLs Google has indexed.
8. Google Analytics Organic Landing Pages
The number of organic landing pages in Google Analytics should closely match the number of URLs indexed. This is useful to see how many pages are in a search engines index.
9. Indexable Pages from Crawl
The number of indexable pages identified from a crawl of the site.
10. XML Sitemap
One of the most accurate ways to check a site’s indexation is to submit an XML sitemap in Google Search Console. They also help alert search engines to URL changes on the site (eg. New pages).
Are XML sitemaps structured to show indexation problems?
Are there any subdomains? Is there any duplicate content between subdomains? Are there any wildcard subdomains?
12. HTTPS Framework
Best practice is to serve users with only one version, e.g. using WWW and HTTPS secure as this portrays trust and credibility as it’s a safer environment.
HTTPS has been recently confirmed as ranking signal by Google.
13. Indexation of Goal pages
Do goal pages have the noindex command applied? This is important to prevent direct organic visits from showing up as goals in analytics. “Goal” doesn’t necessarily need de-indexing.
The Robots.txt file on a website helps search engine crawlers to identify specified files or directories which they should not crawl.
A reference to the XML sitemap should be referenced.
15. Robots Meta & X-Robots Tags
It is possible to control how individual pages should be indexed by including robots directives for an individual URL in the header section.
16. Site Crawl Findings
We have performed a site crawl on a Brand section and Category section of the site. As a result, we have been able to identify a number of issues. Please see the “Site Crawl” Tabs within this spreadsheet for more details.
17. Redirect Chains
A redirect chain is when you have two or more URLs that are being redirected to another URL.
18. Error Page
It is SEO best-practice to ensure that server headers output a 404 “not found” code.
19. Expired Content Handling
Expired content is content on a website that is no longer relevant, such as a page about an event which has passed. Expired products can occur when products that are sold on the site routinely change for one reason or another.
PDF documents can be crawled and indexed by search engines.
If a webpage uses an <iframe> element, search engines will not credit anything within the frame as part of your page, and is not considered SEO friendly.
Google has difficulty crawling sites that rely heavily on Flash code, and it is therefore, unable to index content made using flash files.
Flash content cannot be viewed on mobile devices.
Google monitors websites for malicious code that might have been placed by a hacker.
25. Primary Navigation Checks
The internal navigation of a site is a vital element for both visitors and search engines. Without an SEO friendly navigation search bots will be unable to effectively crawl a site.
26. Faceted Navigation
Faceted navigation, such as filtering by colour or price range, can be helpful for your visitors, but it’s often not search-friendly since it creates many combinations of URLs with duplicative content.
27. Internal Linking
Internal links are very useful for aiding site architecture and spreading link authority. Whilst visible anchor text is vital to show visitors/search engines any relevance between pages.
28. Site Search
Is the internal site search facility accessible to search engines?
29. Footer Navigation
It is important not to have excessive and duplicate links within the Footer area.
Pagination is the practice of segmenting links to content on multiple pages, and this affects two critical elements of search engine accessibility: Crawl Depth and Duplicate Content.
Breadcrumbs are a fantastic way of providing the search engines (and visitors) with a clear indication of page context and site hierarchy.
32. HMTL Sitemap
An HTML sitemap should be included on every website and ideally linked to from every page on that site.
33. Page Layout Algorithm – On-Site Ads
If a large proportion of space available above the fold is taken up by adverts this can be seen as a negative factor by Google.
34. External Tracking Parameters
Affiliate, PPC & Display URLs can cause duplicate content issues. It is important to ensure that these URLs cannot be indexed.
35. URL Optimisation
The ideal URL incorporates the main target key phrase for that page and has a logical structure. When updating or migrating content the URL should remain the same whenever possible.
36. Trailing Slash URLs
Whenever a URL with a trailing “/” exists and it is also possible to access the same page without the trailing slash, this is regarded as duplicate content which can hinder ranking performance and cause fluctuations
37. Case Sensitive URLs
Whenever a URL is available on both upper and lower case variations it can cause potential duplicate content issues. The lower case version should be consistent across all URLs.
38. Non ASCII Characters
Whilst Google can extract character encodings from HTTP headers, HTML page headers (UTF-8), non ASCII characters such as single quotes ‘ or accents á may cause 404 errors in WMT.
39. URL Length
URLs should never exceed 255 characters but ideally should be below 115 characters for best results. The URLs on the site are generally short and succinct, yet still tell visitors exactly what will be on the page.
40. Default Index Pages
The default index page is where the home page is accessible as two duplicated versions e.g. home and / are the same page.
41. URL suffix e.g. WWW vs. non-WWW
All non-WWW URLs should redirect to their WWW counterpart. This will prevent the indexation of pages through two separate URLs. It will also prevent content being tagged by a search engine as “duplicate” (in which case content filters may be applied).
42.Internal Query Parameters
Because search engines can read and index query strings, e.g. those with a “?” within the URL, they can often cause duplicate content issues unless handled correctly.
43. Canonical Directives
Canonicalisation is the process of choosing one URL as the preferred URL when there are several choices. This helps to consolidate link signals for duplicate content.
44. Internal Duplicate Content
Each page on the website should contain unique content to avoid receiving a duplicate content penalty from Google.
45. External Duplicate Content
Content should be unique and not copied from elsewhere on the web.
46. Print Pages
Are they any “printer friendly” versions of pages which may be causing duplicate content?
47. Hidden Content
Hidden text is written content which your visitors cannot see, but which is still readable by the search engines.
Google recently confirmed that they discount hidden content within tabs or expand all links, i.e. information that requires a user to click to see it.
48. Logo / Organisation
We recommend that schema.org mark-up is deployed for organisation logos and to help with brand searches where the knowledge graph may appear.
49. Social Profile Links
We recommend using mark-up on your homepage so that your official social profile information appears within the Knowledge Graph.
We suggest using including micro formatting when implementing breadcrumbs on the site.
We recommend providing product information in order to display rich snippets (for example, price, availability, and review ratings) correctly on the search results pages.
52. Review / Ratings
Adding correct reviews mark-ups helps to make products pages stand out in Google SERPs and also increase CTRs from visitors by creating trust factor.
53. Limited Time Offers
Adding offer mark-ups helps products stand out in Google SERPs and also increase CTRs from visitors by creating trust factor.
54. Site Search
Site search mark-up should be applied for internal searches from google search box.
55. Google+ Publisher
The Google+ rel=publisher is a part of a knowledge graph that allows Google’s search engine help link a Google+ page snippet to its search snippet.”
56. Social Media
Open Graph Meta Tags Social Media Tags allow websites to control how they appear on Social Media websites (Facebook, Google+ & LinkedIn).
57. Twitter Card
TheTwitter Cards protocol allows tweets containing links to display in a richer format, with more content visible and integrated as part of the tweet.
58. Other Applicable Structured Data / Schema.org elements
Are there any other Structured Data markup e.g. Events, Recipe, Software Apps, Articles, etc.
59. Mobile Framework
Is it a mobile site, responsive design, or dynamic serving?
60. Mobile Friendly Labels
Does the site have the “mobile-friendly” label showing up?
61. Mobile Usability Errors
Are pages on the website suffering from usability problems for mobile visitors?
62. Vary HTTP Header
This helps search engines understand that the content is different for mobile users (dynamic serving sites only).
Are there any redirects in place?
If a mobile site (m.) exists, does the desktop equivalent URL point to the mobile version with rel=”alternate”? Does the mobile version canonicalise to the desktop version?
65. User Agent Testing
Google uses different crawlers to crawl and index content that is mobile/smartphone optimised.
66. Like-for-like Pages
Make sure the mobile site design matches the desktop site design.
67. Check that no elements rely on Flash
iPhones can’t render Flash and it is sometimes slow on Android.
68. Site Speed Tests
Page speed is an increasingly important ranking factor as Google looks to return results that are easy and quick to use for its searchers.
70. Image Alt Tags
ALT text is the alternative text defined in code for an image, and using this for all images helps with usability and theming by search engine algorithms.
71. Image Filenames
The ideal filename structure would incorporate the main target key phrase for that image with words that are relevant. Keywords should be separated by hyphens (-) so that search engines can get a better understanding of them.
72. Image Sitemap
An Image XML Sitemap website works in the same as a regular XML sitemap.
73. Video Mark-up
Videos can be used to be a drive a significant amount of traffic and therefore video optimisation should be considered.
74. Video Sitemap
A Video XML Sitemap website works in the same as a regular XML sitemap.
75. Unique page titles
Unique page titles offer one of the most effective means to classify a page and are highly weighted ranking factor.
76. Page titles sufficiently keyword focussed
Whilst page titles are contextual and descriptive, keyword research will identify improvements that will aid in increasing search engine rankings and traffic.
77. Headings presented using relevant heading tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>).
Correctly coded headings help break up and theme significant areas of content, and help search engine algorithms determine relevance.
78. Heading structure using commonly searched-for keywords
Whilst stuffing titles with keywords is not recommended, it is nonetheless optimal to incorporate common search terms into page headings.
79. Unique Meta Descriptions
Meta Descriptions are useful to increase CTRs and for converting search engine users into customers.
80.Meta Tags / Directives (noindex, nofollow, noarchive)
Meta tags are a great way for webmasters to provide search engines with information/directives about their sites/pages. Meta tags are added to the <head> section of your HTML page.
81. International URL versions
Is the URL structure in the native language?
82. Language Headers / Hreflang
Are there any HREFLANG tags present on the site?
Does the currency reflect the country targeted?
84. Targetted Location
If the site has international sections, are they targeted in webmaster tools?
85. Targetted Language
Are there any instances of translation in languages?
86. Location Based Content
If there are multiple versions of a site in the same language (such as /US/ and /UK/, both in English), has the copy been updated so that they are both unique?
87. IP or Login Restrictions
Are there any restrictions from IP or logins?
88. GSC messages
GSC alerts Webmasters of significant changes e.g a sudden increase in the number of URLs found by Googlebot or possible site outages.
89. Manual Actions
It’s imperative to deal with any form of Google penalty which may have been caused by an unnatural backlink profile
90. Crawl Errors
Google Search Console (GSC) reports on crawl errors such as pages not found, server errors and pages blocked,
91. Crawl Statistics
GSC gives insight into pages downloaded per day, average page size and time taken to download them. By analysing trends it is possible to identify issues such as sudden domain-level crawl errors or an increase in the time taken to download a page.
92. HTML Improvements
Unique Title Tags and Meta Descriptions allow pages to be efficiently indexed, ranked and retrieved.
93. Geographic Target Settings
GSC allows webmasters to set a geographic target for their website. For instance, a .com site on a foreign website may not show correctly in Google UK results, so settings would need to be altered accordingly.
94. International Targeting
Google Search Console (GSC) reports hreflang & language codes.
95. Crawl Rate Settings
It’s recommended that the “Let Google optimize for my site” option is selected.
96. Preferred Domain Settings
Whilst it is always recommended to ensure that all non-WWW URLs 301 redirect to WWW counterpart, GSC has a setting to inform Google of a preferred domain.
97. Structured Data Errors
GSC highlights any errors detected with structured data markup, such as schema.org, data-vocabulary.org, xmlns.com & microformats.org
98. XML Sitemaps submitted
Google uses the XML sitemap to crawl the sites pages in a quick index. This identifies what pages should be indexed in order. Google is able to download XML sitemaps.
99. Blocked Resources
100. Query Parameters
Are query paramters being indexed? Are they setup correctly for to optimise crawl budget.
101. Security Issues
Regular checks are recommended in case the site’s security has been breached. Malware can also cause indexation problems and cause Google penalties.
Editable Google Spreadsheet for in-house teams and agencies.
Of course, all the above may very well be an excellent checklist, however, there does need to a sheet that you can record all the actions to be taken. Fortunately we have one just ready for you.
You just replace the logos with that of yours and your clients.
The columns are broken into Title, explanation, what actions are needed, the priority order and the status i.e. completed, outstanding, etc.
The Site Crawl, Navigation Checks, 404 Errors, Mobile Usability Errors and 404s (mobile) sheets are there for additional action notes.
As a Digital Marketeer and Entrepreneur, I have been fortunate to have learnt from some of the best of the best. That is what I believe is critical to ensuring anyone’s success. Take what has worked for successful people and make owning it, knowledge first and then applying what you learn by taking action. Persevering on that path will bring about sure success, simple but effective formula.