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When it comes to SEO, a technical website audit is the foundation upon which a successful online presence is built. By carefully examining your site’s technical aspects, you can uncover and fix issues that might hinder your search engine rankings and your visitor’s experience. Here’s a seven-step guide that will give you a good start and lead you through the process:

1. Crawl Your Website as a Search Engine Would

A technical audit starts by using a web crawling tool that crawls your entire site in the same fashion that Google and other search engines do. Two of the best are Screaming Frog or Ahrefs’ Site Audit. Screaming Frog has a free version with a 500-page crawl limit; this is usually sufficient for small to medium sites. Ahref’s Site Audit is a paid tool, providing an unlimited crawl and bit more data. Both these tools analyze your site’s structure, identify all its pages, and reveal potential issues like broken links and missing meta tags.

2. Check for Indexing Problems

Ensure search engines can access and index your pages. Examine your website’s robots.txt file to avoid blocking essential pages and confirm that your site’s XML sitemap is both up-to-date and properly submitted to the search engines. Sitemaps help guide the search engine’s spiders through your site and can let them know if you have pages you’d prefer weren’t included in their index. One of the most important functions of an XML site map is to prioritize the pages based on their importance. Here is a free sitemap generator that we use frequently for client sites and our own site. Once you are ready with an optimized XML sitemap, add it to Google’s Search Console.

3. Assess Page Loading Speed

Page speed is a critical ranking factor and impacts user experience. Utilize tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix to evaluate loading times. Optimize images, reduce HTTP requests, and implement browser caching for faster load times. The best feature of both of these tools is that they provide advice for carrying out whatever improvements should be made. GTmetrix provides a letter grade after it analyzes your site, it’s actually fun trying to get to that “A” grade!

4. Assess Your Site’s Mobile-Friendliness

Mobile-friendliness is a non-negotiable aspect of SEO. Google has made it clear that their crawlers will not fetch and render mobile and desktop versions separately. Instead, the search engine’s bot will only consider the mobile version for the ranking and indexing purposes. This makes mobile-friendliness the most critical Technical SEO fix in your list. Since it’s believed to be the most important ranking factor, fixing any mobile-friendliness issues within your site must be given priority. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to determine if your website is responsive and user-friendly on various devices.

5. Be Sure an SSL Certificate is in Place for Your Site

The primary function of an SSL certificate is to encrypt the data transferred between a user’s browser and your website’s server. This encryption scrambles the data, making it virtually impossible for cybercriminals to intercept and decipher sensitive information, such as login credentials and personal details. This level of security is essential, especially for websites handling e-commerce transactions, login pages, or contact forms.

When users visit your website, they want assurance that their information is safe. An SSL certificate provides a visible trust signal through the padlock icon in the browser’s address bar and the “https://” prefix in the URL. This instills confidence and reassures visitors that your website is secure, which can boost their trust in your brand.

Search engines, like Google, consider website security a ranking factor. Websites with SSL certificates tend to rank higher in search results, benefiting from a slight SEO boost. Google has even indicated that secure websites receive preferential treatment in search rankings, making an SSL certificate a practical SEO strategy.  There are paid and free SSL certificates depending a site’s needs, but for most, a free Let’s Encrypt certificate will do the job if your web hosting company offers them.

6. Crucial On-Page SEO Elements

Review on-page SEO elements, such as title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and alt attributes for images. These elements should be optimized for relevant keywords to improve your rankings.

7. Duplicate Content and Canonical Tags

Identify and address any duplicate content issues. Google penalizes duplicate content when it’s encountered.  Implement proper canonical tags to specify the preferred version of a page, thereby consolidating ranking signals.  A bit of an oversimplification, but this generally means letting Google know whether it should index your site with or without the “www” prefix.

Conducting a technical website audit is not a one-time endeavor; it’s an ongoing process. Regular assessments help you maintain a website that’s not only search engine-friendly but also offers a satisfying user experience.  And the more quality content your site has to offer, the longer your visitor will stay on your site… another important ranking metric! (Here are nine tips to increase your visitor’s time on site.) Stay vigilant, adapt to SEO best practices, and watch your website’s performance soar.

Overwhelmed? We’re here for you!

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Blake Discher

BLAKE J. DISCHER, FOUNDER

Blake was a professional corporate photographer and educator on all things SEO. After working with fellow photographers who would ask him to build and optimize their sites, he decided to create GO-SEO, a Web Design + SEO company for service-based businesses.

SEO and website design are now his full-time career and photography is a satisfying hobby. His only camera these days is a Leica Q2 Monochrome which he absolutely loves!

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