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How to Conduct a Technical SEO Audit in 12 Steps

How to Conduct a Technical SEO Audit in 12 Steps

A technical SEO audit is a detailed evaluation of a website's backend infrastructure and settings to identify issues negatively impacting search engine optimisation (SEO) and user experience. With over 8.5 billion Google searches per day and over 90% of online experiences beginning with a search engine, technical SEO is crucial for driving organic traffic, leads, and sales.

This comprehensive guide will explore a technical SEO audit, why it's important, what elements it examines, and how to conduct an audit step-by-step. By the end, you'll understand this vital process for unlocking a site's full SEO potential.

What is a Technical SEO Audit?

Technical Seo Backlink Audit

A technical SEO audit examines a website's:

  • Site architecture – Information architecture and internal linking structure
  • Code quality – HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and server-side code
  • Crawlability – If search engines can access all pages
  • Indexability – If pages get indexed properly after crawling
  • Rendering – If pages display correctly across devices/browsers
  • Performance – Page speed and response times
  • Security – SSL, permissions, handling of sensitive data

The goal is to identify issues that:

  • Block crawlers from accessing pages
  • Prevent proper indexing and page renderings
  • Create a poor user experience that increases bounce rates

By finding and fixing these problems, pages become visible, consumable, and compelling – driving more organic traffic.

Sale
Tech SEO Guide: A Reference Guide for Developers and Marketers Involved in Technical SEO
  • Edgar, Matthew (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 164 Pages – 02/09/2023 (Publication Date) – Apress (Publisher)

Why Conduct a Technical SEO Audit?

There are four critical reasons for performing a technical SEO audit:

1. Boost Organic Reach & Traffic

Technical flaws like crawl errors, duplicate content, and slow load times limit the pages search engines can index. This reduces discoverability and traffic potential. An audit spots these issues so you can fix them.

2. Improve User Experience

Site speed, broken links, render errors, and other technical problems create frustration. This leads visitors to leave quickly. An audit identifies UX issues to develop happier, stickier visitors.

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3. Increase Conversions

With higher organic reach and better on-site experience, you drive more qualified visits to conversion paths. Smoother site functionality also removes obstacles in the buyer journey.

4. Outperform Competitors

Perfecting site architecture, performance, and indexability gives your content an SEO advantage. Competitors with technical flaws fall behind while you pull ahead.

Conducting regular technical SEO audits checks that no issues are slipping through the cracks to impact organic performance negatively. If you can't do an audit by yourself, consider technical SEO services to conduct an audit for you. This way, website owners can ensure that their site is optimised for search engines and that no technical issues hinder their online visibility.

Core Elements of a Technical SEO Audit

A comprehensive technical audit examines nine key elements:

1. Crawlability

  • Can search bots access all site pages?
  • Are there any issues preventing full crawling? (robots.txt, noindex, permissions, etc.)

2. Indexation

  • Do pages get indexed properly after crawling?
  • What is the indexation rate?

3. Duplicate Content

  • Are multiple URLs serving the same content?
  • Does the site use proper rel=”canonicals”?

4. Site Architecture

  • How is information structured and linked?
  • Is internal linking optimal for bots and users?

5. Code Quality

  • Does HTML, CSS and JavaScript meet best practices?
  • Any errors or over-optimisation?

6. Site Speed

  • How fast are pages loading across devices?
  • What is the page speed distribution?

7. Rendering

  • Do pages display uniformly across browsers/devices?
  • Are there any render-blocking resources?

8. Security

  • Does the site use HTTPS and handle permissions correctly?
  • Do any vulnerabilities expose sensitive data?

9. Mobile Friendliness

  • Is the site optimised for mobile devices?
  • Does Google see it as mobile-friendly?

Now, let's explore what analysing each element entails during a technical SEO audit.

How to Conduct a Technical SEO Audit

Local Seo Audit

Performing a comprehensive technical audit involves 12 critical steps:

Step 1. Define Goals, Scope & Tools

First, outline your reasons for the audit, which site sections and technologies will be analysed, and which tools you'll use.

Goals include boosting organic traffic, reducing bounce rates, improving page speed, etc. Define specific metrics the audit aims to improve directly.

The scope maps out which parts of the site will be audited. It may examine:

  • Entire site
  • Specific sections like blog, services pages, etc
  • New site portion that was recently changed or added

Tools range from free auditing checklists to paid crawler-based platforms:

Common Technical SEO Tools

  • Google Search Console
  • Google Lighthouse
  • Screaming Frog Spider
  • DeepCrawl
  • Moz Pro
  • Ahrefs
  • Pingdom
  • GTMetrix

Select tools that check all aspects you aim to analyse.

Step 2. Set Up Crawler Access

Before crawling a site, search bots need proper access permissions.

  • Submit sitemaps – HTML, XML, video and image
  • Add site to search console
  • Check robots.txt allows all bots
  • Confirm site uses analytics tracking

With permissions set up, crawlers can now fully traverse the site.

Step 3. Crawl Entire Site

Screaming Frog Seo Tool

The next step is crawling the complete domain to analyse:

  • What pages exist – Capture every URL and resource
  • HTML code – View page source to audit HTML/CSS/JS
  • On-page optimisation – Check titles, metadata, etc
  • Internal linking – See overall site architecture
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Crawling reveals total pages, site structure layout, indexing directives on pages (noindex, nofollow, etc.) and internal linking flow driving bot crawlability.

Step 4. Assess Indexation Rate

The indexation rate shows what percentage of crawled pages get included in search results. A low rate indicates crawlability flaws blocking pages from indexing.

Check the indexation rate in Google Search Console:

  • Crawled Pages: 100,000
  • Indexed Pages: 50,000
  • Indexation Rate = 50,000 / 100,000 = 50%

See which specific pages failed to index under the Inspection tool. Identify any patterns preventing pages from being added.

Step 5. Identify Duplicate Content

Duplicate content occurs when identical or barely edited page versions appear multiple times within or across domains. This confuses search bots in determining the canonical version to show searchers.

Run the site through copyscape.com to reveal duplication issues. Check tags properly and use rel=”canonicals” to signal the correct version.

Duplicate content reduction is also checked in Google Search Console.

Step 6. Evaluate Site Architecture

Website Architecture Example

Site architecture includes:

  • Information hierarchy – How content is structured and categorised
  • Internal link pathways – Connections enabling bots/users to flow between pages

Best practices for architecture include:

  • Precise categorisation – Content grouped into logical silos
  • Excellent usability – Simple flows for users to find information
  • Optimal crawlability – Connections for bots reaching all pages

Assess if the current architecture facilitates crawling, creates happy visitors, and supports SEO.

Step 7. Audit Code Implementation

View page source code and audit aspects like:

HTML

  • Valid markup – No errors as per W3C HTML checker
  • Logical tags used – Represents content correctly
  • Appropriate metadata – Title, description, keywords

CSS

  • Valid code – CSS validator shows no errors
  • Efficient selectors – Avoids overspecificity for overrides
  • Content visible – No critical text/links hidden

JavaScript

  • Up-to-date libraries – Checks for vulnerabilities
  • Validation – Ensures no conflicts are present
  • Performance – Asynchronous loading

Check for over-optimisation violating search engine guidelines. Evaluate if the code facilitates bot rendering and meets web best practices.

Step 8. Check Site Speed Performance

Site speed measures how quickly pages load across:

  • Desktop – Average and distribution of PC load times
  • Mobile – Smartphone and tablet speeds

Test using online tools or crawl reports. Target under 3 seconds on mobile and PC.

Identify the heaviest elements (images, scripts, files) delaying page loads. Eliminate render blocking resources.

Faster speeds reduce bounce rates for happier visitors and search bots.

Step 9. Confirm Visual Rendering

Rendering evaluates if site visuals display correctly across:

  • Devices – Desktop, tablet and mobile
  • Browsers – Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc
  • Operating systems – Windows, iOS, Android

Check elements like:

  • Images and menus
  • Videos and sliders
  • Forms and tables
  • Overall formatting and alignments

Errors or Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) fail to prevent clear visualisation for visitors.

Step 10. Audit Site Security

Importance Of Wordpress Security 2022 2023

Security helps protect visitors' data and privacy. Analyse:

  • HTTPS – The site uses an SSL certificate with the padlock icon
  • Permissions – Access rights assigned correctly
  • Vulnerabilities – No exposure risks

Poor security causes warning messages, failing indexing, and data leaks.

Step 11. Evaluate Mobile Friendliness

Assess mobile optimisation via:

  • Google test – Mobile-friendly status
  • Page speed – Faster mobile over desktop?
  • Responsive design – Adjusts correctly across devices.
  • Click elements – Buttons, links, and menus are usable.
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Failing mobile friendliness hampers local search visibility and user experience.

Step 12. Identify SEO Opportunities

Finally, compile audit findings into prioritised SEO recommendations detailing:

  1. Issues identified – Problems related to the site's architecture, speed, metadata, etc., with examples and screenshots. Provide performance benchmarks.
  2. Impacts – Negative effects on organic visibility, user experience and conversions
  3. Solutions – Specific fixes and development tasks for resolving each issue
  4. Expected SEO/UX improvements – Quantify the lift forecast in organic traffic, lower bounce rates, faster page speed, etc., after implemented changes. Calculate potential added revenue.

This action plan gives stakeholders data-backed justification for allocating resources towards technically optimising the site. Ongoing audits continue driving constant SEO progress.

SEO Audit Frequency Best Practices

Conduct recurring technical SEO audits to catch issues early before significantly impacting performance.

New websites should be audited during critical milestones:

  • Initial development launch
  • Post-launch at 1, 3 and 6 months

Existing sites depend on the scale of changes:

  • Major redesigns/relaunches – 1, 3 and 6 months after launch
  • Medium changes – Once per quarter
  • Routine minor updates – Biannually with additional spot checks

Comparing audits reveals if changes created new technical issues and if previous flaws have been fixed. Constant optimisations boost SEO visibility over competitors.

Technical SEO Audit Recommendations

Regular technical SEO audits and addressing identified issues will improve site health. Here are key takeaways:

  • Fix crawl errors immediately – Prevent pages from disappearing from SERPs through rapid remediation
  • Set internal page speed budgets – Helps benchmark and monitor optimisation impact over time
  • Monitor TTFB trends – Identify growing infrastructure problems before site performance faces significant impact
  • Stay on top of algorithm updates – Evaluate the latest recommendations to remain compliant as Google evolves
  • Prioritise opportunities from most to most negligible impact – Focus engineering resources on fixes delivering the most considerable visibility improvements
  • Compare against competitors – Understand your relative technical optimisation levels in the market.
  • Automate where possible – Ongoing crawls help identify new problems as they emerge
  • Retest to measure impact – Validate that applied fixes and optimisations improved identified issues.

Dedicate resources to conduct technical audits regularly, and your site will remain robust as search algorithms evolve.

Technical SEO Audit Results Presentation

The final deliverable is a visually compelling presentation. It should provide executives with a clear snapshot of the following:

  • Methodology and goals
  • Key findings and metrics/benchmarks
  • Illustrative charts and graphs related to crawlability, speed, mobile friendliness, etc
  • Specific SEO impact and consequences
  • Granular recommendations and next step plan for capitalising on quick wins and tackling advanced fixes

Well-designed reports help decision-makers easily digest the data-driven business case for allocating resources towards technical SEO at scale.

Technical SEO Auditing Case Study

Technical Seo Audit Example Wayfair

Let's explore a technical SEO audit example highlighting how retailer Wayfair optimised their site's infrastructure.

The Problem

Wayfair, one of the world's most oversized online furniture and home goods retailers, struggled with site speed and performance issues. Pages took over 15 seconds on average to fully load – drastically impacting conversion rates.

Their development team fixed surface-level problems, but site performance declined as traffic volumes rose. It became evident that a whole technical overhaul was required.

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The Technical SEO Audit

Wayfair conducted an extensive evaluation of its entire web architecture, including:

  • Crawling & Indexation – Confirmed no major indexation issues and that key pages had canonical tags
  • Page Speed – Found average FCP of 15+ seconds, identifying this as the key issue
  • Infrastructure – Traced slow FCPs to overloaded servers struggling with traffic spikes
  • Code – Revealed jQuery conflicts and redundant styles bloating file sizes

This uncovered that the root cause was inadequate infrastructure incapable of handling their growth.

Recommendations & Fixes

To address these problems, Wayfair implemented several technical recommendations:

  • Infrastructure Upgrades – Scaled up servers and computing capacity 10x to handle more visitors and requests
  • Code Optimisations – Streamlined overloaded jQuery scripts bogging down page loads
  • Compression – Minified CSS/JS scripts to reduce file sizes browsers needed to load
  • Caching – Set up distributed caching servers to minimise database load
  • Image Optimisations – Converted images into next-gen formats to enhance performance

These solutions helped overcome their rapid growth challenges.

The Results

The large-scale infrastructure upgrades and site optimisations led to major speed improvements:

  • 89% drop in average First Contentful Paint
    • Decreased from 15s+ to under 2s
  • 35%+ cut in average load times
  • 33% reduction in bounce rates
  • 14% higher search click-through-rates
  • Millions in extra revenue annually

The technical SEO audit facilitated a much faster, more scalable site best positioned for long-term growth.

FAQs About Technical SEO Audits

What skills are required to conduct an effective technical audit?

Technical SEO – Architectural best practices, indexing, site speed
Web development – HTML, CSS, JavaScript, servers, security
Analytics – Identifying data trends and benchmarks
Project management – Creating action plans

What are some common high-impact issues found in audits?

Mass indexer exclusion – Overusing noindex without cause
Render blocking JS/CSS – Slow page load times
Duplicate content across domains
Weak internal linking between silos
Faulty redirects create crawler loops
Pages not mobile-optimised

How much do technical SEO audits typically cost?

Full professional audits usually average between $500 – $5,000+ depending on site size and depth analysis. DIY audits using free tools carry no fees but sacrifice depth. Many issues demand advanced technical skills even to detect.

Can I perform technical SEO myself, or do I need an agency?

The viability of self-administration depends on existing in-house expertise across analytics, web development and technical SEO. Lacking competencies in any area makes an agency advantageous for augmenting capabilities through consulting. They also provide an impartial outside perspective to identify issues internal teams sometimes overlook.

Is this a one-time project, or should auditing be recurring?

Auditing must be recurring because technology and best practices continually evolve. Regular re-evaluations ensure fixes remain implemented and reveal any new issues arising over time that undermine performance. Think of audits as site checkups detecting potentially cancerous SEO growths.

Conclusion

A properly executed technical SEO audit critically examines backend infrastructure to unlock substantial organic visibility gains, happier visitors, and more significant revenues.

Crawling an entire site while thoroughly assessing architecture, code quality, speed, and security reveals flaws sabotaging reach and conversions. Presenting an audit report makes this concrete case to management for allocating resources towards crucial fixes.

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Conducting recurring quarterly audits consistently elevates performance above competitors as you capture SEO share in lucrative commercial search results. Master technical SEO audits and send your online business soaring to new heights.

Last update on 2024-07-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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