How to Conduct a Technical SEO Site Audit
Key points you can
learn in this lesson.
Using Technical SEO Tools
Understand how to use technical SEO tools like Screaming Frog to crawl your website
Avoiding Technical Issues
Learn how to find technical issues on a website that will affect rankability
Prioritizing Your Findings
Organize and prioritize findings to remedy the issues found in your audit.
Our key metrics increased. More importantly, we implemented a lot of new tactics and test scenarios, which will boost our company’s future prospects.
In this section, we will be reviewing how to do a basic Technical SEO Audit. We will be diving into some general best practices and tutorials on how to make sure your site is indexable, how to find issues with duplicate content, and how to perform a site speed audit. We will also be crawling your site with a very popular tool called Screaming Frog, which is going to give us a ton of insight into the technical foundation such as redirection errors, 404 pages, issues with canonical tags, meta titles, etc.
The purpose of this audit is to help identify if there are any technical errors on your site that could be hindering your ability to rank in the SERP.
I will first give context into the process, walk through the tools I am using, and then perform this technical audit live. At the end of the lesson, you will have access to all of the templates I am using here.
What is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO refers to website and/or server optimizations that help search engine spiders crawl and index your site more efficiently. Doing this will ultimately help your site rank higher in the SERP and for more relevant keywords.
Since this subject can be a little dry, we wanted to make this a little fun so we will be diving into Tesla’s website as an example! We recommend following along with your own site.
The point of this process is to identify what your pain points are from the perspective of a crawler. This will help you understand what issues you can fix to help give your site the best chance of ranking in the SERP.
Why Is This Important?
Technical SEO is an important aspect to always be aware of because there are a lot of ranking factors that are based around more technical concepts like site speed, or duplicate content.
The insights gained from this analysis will help you understand which tasks you should prioritize to help you build your technical strategy moving forward. These insights can help you determine how difficult it will be to execute them based on the amount of time and resources it will take to do so.
What You’ll Need:
There are many tools that you can use to help you with a technical audit, here are some free tools that we will be using in our audit below:
- SSL Checker → Click Here
- CDN Checker → Click Here
- Duplicate Content Checker → Click Here
- Subdomain Finder → Click Here
- GTMetrix (Site Speed) → Click Here
- Google Pagespeed Insights → Click Here
- Google Mobile Site Speed Tool → Click Here
Here is a list of some other free tools we like that can provide some valuable information:
In this lesson we will be using Screaming Frog to dive into their technical foundation, we are using the paid version, but they also have a free version that you can download below:
- Screaming Frog → Click Here
The main difference between the two is that the free version limits your crawl to 500 URLs while the paid version has no limit. This tool costs about $180 for a 1-year license, but is definitely well worth it!
Additionally, you will need the following templates:
- Template: Site Speed Audit
- Template: Screaming Frog Crawl
My main focus with this audit is going to be helping you understand how to find potential issues on a site and what to look for. Since there are so many different ways you can build a website, I am not going to focus on how to fix these specific issues since there can be a million different ways to do it. Every developer is going to have their own way to do things, and I want this to be something that you can take with you on any website, regardless of how it was built.
However, in each section, I will go over the basics of what we want to accomplish so you can take that information to your developer to see what it will take to execute on these items. My hope here is that I can show you how to find issues, and help you understand what it means to resolve them.
So, let’s start diving into it! The first step is doing a quick audit of the domain itself.
Section 1: Audit Your Domain
In our first section, we are going to be quickly looking at some basic things to make sure there aren’t any immediate threats to your site’s search health that stem from your domain. The first thing we are going to be looking at is whether or not you have an SSL Certificate.
How to Check for an SSL Certificate:
An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a text file with encrypted data that you install on your server. This allows you to secure/encrypt sensitive information and communications between your website and your audience.
Back in 2014, Google rolled out an algorithm update that favored sites with an SSL Certificate. There have been several updates to the algorithm since, but in September of 2018 was when Google pushed it into high gear and started devaluing and penalizing websites that didn’t have an SSL certificate.
Since then, having a secure website has not only become a ranking factor but is a best practice for any website. We use a couple of quick tools to help us determine whether or not your site is secure.
What I am looking for here is to make sure the domain we are auditing has an SSL Certificate set up, and if not, have their developers sync with their hosting provider to determine what it will take to set it up.
- So, the first step here is to navigate to our target website, and in this case, it is Tesla! So, in your favorite web browser, open up the site:
- The first tool we are going to use is our eyes! If a website has an SSL, we should be able to see a lock symbol to the left of the domain in the navigation bar. Here is what this can look like in a few different web browsers.
- Google Chrome:
- Mozilla Firefox
3. So clearly, Tesla DOES have an SSL Certificate! The next tool we are going to use is one from SSLshopper.com – https://www.sslshopper.com/ssl-checker.html.
- What this tool does is let you know if your SSL is correctly installed, who it was issued by when it expires, and lets you know of any redirection chains going on with the SSL which could be hurting your site speed.
4. So, in your favorite web browser go ahead and navigate to https://www.sslshopper.com/ssl-checker.html. And when the page loads, you should see something like this:
5. Go ahead and enter in https://www.tesla.com into their search bar, and once it finishes analyzing their domain – you should see something like this:
6. As we can see from this tool, their SSL is trusted by all major web browsers, it issued by DigiCert, and will expire in 279 days. What we are looking for mainly is if there are any issues with the certificate not being compatible with all major browsers OR if the certificate is going to expire soon. If there are any issues with their SSL, you will need to have a developer get in contact with the client’s hosting provider or SSL issuer to figure out what is going on. If their SSL is about to expire, you will need to have the client make sure they have auto-renew set up for their SSL and verify that the payment information is up to date. You don’t want that to expire all of a sudden and be without an SSL all because someone didn’t update their credit card info.
7. The last thing we want to check here is the number of redirects that their SSL takes to resolve. So, if we scroll down a little down the page – we can see this:
8. For Tesla, it looks like there is only 1 redirect which is pretty normal – anything more than 1 or 2 redirects in the chain here could potentially spark a conversation with the client’s developer or host provider to see what is going on. Remember, any unnecessary redirects here can potentially add seconds to a page’s load time which can drastically hurt your ability to rank in the SERP.
The next thing we look at here is whether or not their domain redirects correctly with all their HTTP protocols. So, Tesla’s website resolves to https://www.tesla.com/. What we want to see is that if I go to https://tesla.com/, http://www.tesla.com/, and http://tesla.com/ they all redirect correctly to https://www.tesla.com/. I usually check this with the homepage and one other page on the site, so in this example, we will test their home page and their Model 3 page.
So, if we navigate to all the different HTTP protocols for their homepage:
We see that all of these redirect correctly to https://www.tesla.com/. So, this looks good to me!
Now, if we do the same test with their Model 3 page, we should hope to see the same results:
And again, all of these redirect correctly!
The last thing we check here is for their trailing slash redirect. So, for their Model 3 page, https://www.tesla.com/model3, if I navigate to https://www.tesla.com/model3/ (adding the trailing slash to the end of the URL), this should redirect me to the version without the trailing slash. If it doesn’t, I would then look to make sure the canonical URL is set to point to the version without the trailing slash. So, let’s take a look:
Unfortunately, this URL neither redirects me to the main version of this page OR has a canonical URL set.
What this means is that Google could be crawling both of these pages, and since there isn’t a canonical URL set, there are now 2 versions of this page with the exact same content. This could be devaluing the content on this page which could hinder it from ranking as high as it could in the SERP.
Luckily, we don’t see this happening on every page, but we need to definitely bring this up to their developers to see what it will take to fix this across their site. This is usually fixed with a simple redirect added to their .htaccess file so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue to resolve.
So, after going through all of this, we can see that Tesla does, in fact, have an SSL enabled for their domain, and while there aren’t any issues with their HTTP protocol redirects, we did find some issues with their trailing slash redirects. Let’s move on to our next item, a CDN!
How to Check for a CDN:
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