In the last article, we talked to about technical SEO and what it entails.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to conduct a technical SEO audit. What to look for? What tools to use? And what to focus on?
Selecting Your SEO Tools
Unless your website has less than 50 pages or so, you’re going to need an SEO auditing tool to crawl the website. The most popular SEO auditing software tools are SEMrush, ahrefs, and ScreamingFrog.
Personally, SEMrush is my favorite because they grade your overall site health and provide a comprehensive user-interface for reporting, keyword tracking, and a lot of other features.
Ahrefs is great for backlink auditing, building backlinks, and anything that has to do with the back links. But it is not ideal for auditing websites.
ScreamingFrog is a great tool and I will sometimes run it in parallel alongside SEMRush. It’s also significantly cheaper than both SEMrush and ahrefs, probably because there is no user interface in the cloud. It’s great to crawl the website and export that data to Google Sheets or Excel but there isn’t a user interface that allows you to run reports and present to clients.
Google Search Console and Google Analytics are also tools that you will want to have set up and connected so that you can accurately track your organic traffic.
For the purpose of this article, I will be using SEMrush and a few other tools for specific things such as site speed.
What to Focus on First
Another reason why I like SEMrush is that it prioritizes the most important errors, warnings, and notices.
- Errors are issues of the highest severity and should be fixed first.
- Warnings aren’t as important but you should attempt to fix as many as possible.
- Notices are not so important and most likely will not be fixed on larger sites.
These errors may look alarming but it’s important to understand that you’re not going to be fixing every single one. The audit takes into account SEO best practices and this would be the ideal if you are 100% focused on SEO and we’re willing to potentially compromise other aspects of the website to fix all SEO notices. So let’s drill down into the errors and see what to fix first.
The above screenshot shows the eight most critical errors that we must fix. You can click on each one and drill down to see exactly which pages the errors occur on. They also do a great job of explaining what the error is and how to fix it.
Since we have to fix them all we have to decide which one to start with. The easy thing to do is look at which one has the most errors and start there – hreflang conflicts. Another reason why this is a good error to start with is that it can be fixed programmatically. With a few lines of code, we can fix all 1400+ hreflang errors in the span of a few hours.
This is just a personal preference, but it’s always great to come back to your client and say “hey look, we fixed 1400 errors in our first week of implementing SEO fixes”. It’s a quick win and it goes a long way rather than starting with the 900 duplicate meta descriptions, which may take weeks to completely finish and deliver to the client.
After fixing all of the errors to the best of our ability we would then go on and do the same with the warnings and then the notices. My personal goal is to get the site health to 90%. That tends to be very challenging with large websites.
With page speed being so important, there are a dozen different tools we could use to check our page speed. We’re going to rely on the ones that are provided by Google today, specifically Google pagespeed insights.
Focusing on the opportunities, we can see that images are significantly slowing down this particular website. So we would click on the errors and find solutions to the problems and present them to the client.
Mobile Accessibility & Core Web Vitals
The rest of the technical SEO aspects that we’re going to look at today can all be viewed from Google Search Console.
Fortunately, this particular website doesn’t have any errors but if it did we would click on open report, find the specific hour, and go in and fix it.
This usually requires working closely with the developer as you can see most of the errors revolve around coding. This is also the same for the core web vitals, which mainly focuses on the speed of the website on desktop and mobile.
This is not an exhaustive list of all technical SEO aspects that you should be focusing on and fixing but it does cover the most critical issues that you should be prioritizing. If you are not experienced with this then I recommend hiring a technical SEO agency to take care of it for you.
Derek is a digital marketer based in Boston, Massachusetts with almost a decade of hands-on SEO experience. He finds it meaningful, challenging, and exciting to develop, test, and implement new SEO strategies. When he’s not auditing websites and optimizing content he’s usually backpacking and exploring new cultures.