Every technical SEO audit is an opportunity to maximize the performance and quality of a website. But it can only succeed if it takes into account a handful of essential factors that, if ignored, can mean trouble for that site down the road.
Failing to cover these issues in a technical audit can leave your client with a site that can’t compete for rankings or effectively drive traffic, and with an unhappy client.
Essential Technical SEO Audit Components
While no two technical SEO audits will ever be identical, focusing on a site’s adherence to well-established criteria provides a firm foundation for both high-quality content and strong competitive performance.
One of the best tools to use to uncover site errors in an SEO audit is Semrush’s Site Audit tool. You may want to read all of our guides on this tool, because they are comprehensive and will help you learn the tool comprehensively.
To ensure you’re getting the best possible results, every audit must cover at least six key factors: crawlability, indexability, rankability, page speed, user experience, and on-page optimization.
A site’s content can’t rank if the search engines can’t crawl it, and they can’t crawl it if they’re constantly tripping over errors, broken links, and bad redirects.
To make sure the bots have full access and can crawl unhampered, take a few fundamental steps.
- Ensure all URLs return a 200 OK status with no errors.
- Set canonical URLs properly.
- Ensure all URLs are fully indexable.
- Ensure all linked URLs are error free.
- Ensure all pages load correctly.
- Ensure all pages load at an appropriate speed.
- Ensure all pages in the XML sitemap are properly defined and load without error.
- Check that all redirects reach their destination without error.
Simple, right? But crawlability can be deceptively simple, particularly on larger sites. Pay special attention to these common headaches that can inhibit crawlability:
- suboptimal or broken internal links
- poorly optimized site structure
- server errors
- looping redirects
- other script errors
Running through this checklist before you proceed can help the rest of the technical SEO site audit go much more smoothly.
Making sure search engines can crawl the site is job one. But if they can’t properly index what they crawl, you’re back to square one.
You can ensure the content is easy to index by addressing the factors most likely to prevent indexability:
- 4xx client errors
- 5xx server errors from having taken the site down previously
- the server denying access to any URLs
- incorrect use of nofollow tags
- recovering from a site hack
- broken pages, particularly important ones
- generic 404 pages
Climbing the search engine results pages (SERPs) requires high-quality content that’s optimized with ranking factors strong enough to best the competition.
While Google has revealed it uses more than 200 ranking factors when evaluating content, for technical SEO, content and links are the most important ranking factors. When both of these are well optimized, you don’t need to worry about much else.
A deep dive into content during the audit—how deeply you dive depends on the scope—ideally includes content analysis, keyword optimization (or lack thereof), and how user-friendly and effective the site structure is.
4. Page Speed
While Google has included page speed as a factor in desktop SERP performance since 2010, it prioritized mobile page speed as well starting in 2018. PC or phone, nobody wants to wait longer than they have to for a page to load.
This is why page speed tests both during the audit and at regular intervals afterward can help ensure you’re able to spot and correct any potential slowdowns before they become performance problems.
Choose your favorite page speed–testing tool. If you don’t already have one, check out:
To test page speed:
- Run URLs through your page speed tool of choice three times.
- Review the effects of all three scores.
- Take the average of all three tests to determine page speed.
5. User Experience
While it may not be a direct ranking signal, user experience can significantly affect conversions.
A drab, clunky site will have a harder time converting users than a site with a brilliant, user-targeted color scheme, calls to action that convert well, and a unifying design.
Consistency matters too. If the website looks great on mobile, but lacks the same experience on desktop—or vice versa—you’re headed for trouble.
Looking at the site’s bounce rate and average time on page metrics in Google Analytics can give you a firm foundation for assessing the usability of the client’s site.
Also, using heatmap tools such as Crazy Egg, Mouseflow, Lucky Orange and Heatmap.com can deliver fantastic insights into how the site’s target audience consumes its content.
6. On-Page Optimization
While rankings for non-competitive keywords may be obtained fairly quickly, ranking for more competitive keywords takes more effort. Does the site take advantage of fundamental on-page optimization techniques?
Aim for success by ensuring the technical SEO audit includes a review of some basic on-page optimization factors.
- appropriate keyword targeting
- page titles
- meta descriptions
- headers (H1, H2, H3, etc.)
- sufficient content to remain competitive for relevant queries
- outbound links to authoritative sources
- internal links to relevant pages
- code optimization
Technical SEO Audits That Move the Needle
Whatever techniques and tools you use, the goal of an efficient and effective technical SEO audit is to identify and implement changes that can move the needle, i.e., drive an uptick in SERP performance, conversions and competitive agility.
Planning a firm timeline and scope, and taking the time necessary to create clear, accessible, and achievable recommendations can make performing that technical SEO site audit even easier, and help lead your client’s site to greater success.