SEO is not all about content, keywords, and UX. Admittedly, these are the buzzwords of the industry today, and for good reason. Without content mapped to a keyword plan that does a better job of competitors at matching searcher intent, your not going to see much upward movement in the SERP.
However, these pillars of SEO content strategy do not touch on the technical side of things; the architectural framework for every site on the internet. New web hosting platforms have come into vogue that claim to do most of the technical work around SEO for you, which may, or may not, cover what a technical audit does.
Analytics software companies like SEMrush, Moz, Ahrefs, and others have also developed incredibly powerful management platforms to help site managers and SEOs monitor site. As a result of this industry shift towards more user-friendly platforms, some marketing managers – and certainly swaths of small and medium-sized business owners – think they can get away with the old ‘set it and forget it’ attitude, neglecting to test, measure, and optimize the technical architecture that makes a site fit to rank. They are wrong.
The best way to know what is really going on with a clients site is to perform a technical audit. Digital marketing agencies that offer SEO marketing services should do technical audits the beginning of a new client relationship and semi-regularly throughout the year – especially after a major event like switching from a subdomain to a subdirectory hosting structure.
And although every marketing agency will have their own set of technical features to check in an audit, here are five features of a technical audit that should be on everyone’s checklist:
The first, and most basic, place to start is by checking the HTTPS status codes. HTTPS is a security protocol introduced by Google a couple of years ago. Migration from HTTP to HTTPS was practically an obligation for site managers last year, and for good reason – Google bots will not pull up content from an HTTP site because they deem the site to be insecure.
A crawl report is probably the next thing you should do. These reports can be run in analytics software platforms and provide a complete run-down of the issues and overall health of the site. While some of the other technical audits on this list can be done twice a year or so, a crawl report should be done every month because it provides a prioritized list of maintenance tasks to perform throughout the month that keeps the site clean, lean, and healthy.
A survey of Google Search console will indicate whether the site has a registered XML and HTML site in Google. These sitemaps serve different purposes but they are equally important for site optimization in the eyes of the search engine and the site visitor. An XML sitemap is a precise guidebook of your site for Google search engines to crawl, collected and organized in a single document. An HTML sitemap is the same type of guidebook, this time presented to site visitors in the form of a bulleted list of pages located within the site. As you can imagine, both sitemaps need to be updated when new pages are added to the site, which is probably the last thing on a small business owners mind after creating a new services page.
You should always check for Robots.txt. Robots.txt is a file on your site that should include all the URLs for the pages the site. Be sure to check for the ‘disallow’ message in the code, especially since, if pages are not getting indexed by Google it is probably because of a pesky ‘dissalow’ message in the Robots.txts file for that specific page instructing the search engine to skip it.
Measure keyword usage/ranking
Keyword monitoring should absolutely be part of a technical audit. There are many spots for keyword optimization across a site, whether it’s in the meta data, meta descriptions, page titles, headers, and content. Issues like duplicate content, canabalized keywords across pages, and un-optimized content should can all discovered here.
SEO means playing the long-game
This is only the tip of the iceberg of all the technical features an SEO specialist should be optimizing for. However, if you account for these technical features you are still putting client sites in the best position to be seen in SERPs over the long-term. SEOs and marketers need to make sure they don’t overlook these technical features in the excitement of rolling out a marketing campaign.