With so many ranking factors to consider, one that often gets overlooked is good technical site health. Optimising your website for searchers is obviously a primary focus; making sure you deliver a great user experience is crucial and whilst your content sits at the heart of this, how your website is set up and configured from a technical perspective also plays a big part. Helping Google to crawl and index the content you want people to see more easily means that you are more likely to get more of the right people to your pages and as a result, you are more likely to rank well for your optimised keywords.
Analysing your technical set up
For many companies, a technical site audit is something that is done once at best, often when they engage with an SEO agency for the first time. It’s true that a technical audit is a big part of our SEO set up process but for us, it doesn’t stop when we hand over that report or even once we have fixed up all the recommendations in the document. Like most things SEO-related, doing things for a short period may get you some short term ranking boosts, however once you turn that off and stop doing it, it’s more than likely that your site’s rankings will start to drop again over time. This of course does vary from site to site; smaller sites for example often need much less work when it comes to keeping the technical side of things healthy but it’s still prudent to schedule regular checks no matter what the size or type of site.
For us, a technical check of our clients’ websites is part of our weekly work. This weekly check is not a full warrant of fitness but more just a sense check to make sure there are no obvious issues creeping in. We also schedule quarterly site audits where we will go much deeper into an audit but for most sites, a weekly check is often enough to spot any potential issues before they develop, therefore making your quarterly audits much easier.
Technical audit checklist
When we attended SMS in Sydney back in June, we attended an awesome session with Jason Mun from Bespoke who provided some great tips on regularly managing your site health and ensuring your site is optimised not only for the end user but also for Google crawl bots. An efficient crawl means that Google is crawling more of the pages that you want to be found rather than them wasting valuable crawl budget on pages that add little value to the end user or to you as a business.
Whilst this is now a year old, Geoff Kenyon from Moz also produced a rather handy technical site audit checklist back in 2015 and most of the things included on the list are still relevant today and tie in with Jason’s top tips for maintaining a healthy site. Here are some of the key things you need to pay attention to in 2017 to ensure your site is healthy:
SEO Technical Site Audit Checklist 2017
◻️ Check indexed pages
- Do a site: search e.g. site:digitalhothouse.co.nz
- Check the number of pages indexed with the indexed page in Google Search Console
- Use a tool like Screaming Frog to compare what Google is showing
- Check to see if the homepage is the first result returned
◻️ XML Sitemap check
- Make sure the number of pages submitted in your sitemap is closely matched to the number of pages indexed by Google
- Ensure your XML sitemap(s) is submitted to Google and Bing webmaster tools
- Ensure the XML sitemap(s) is listed in the robots.txt file
◻️ Robots.txt file check
- Make sure all search bots can crawl your important content
- Make sure link equity is not being orphaned due to pages being blocked by the robots.txt file
◻️ Review the number of organic landing pages in Google Analytics
- Compare the number of pages listed in GA to those returned in your site: search – is this similar?
- This is a good way to find out which pages are driving traffic from Google and which pages Google sees as being important/valuable on your site
◻️ Run Google’s Mobile Friendly test
- Make sure your whole site is mobile friendly, not just your homepage
- The tool tests URLs, not domains so run your key pages through the tool to make sure they all meet Google’s guidelines for mobile friendliness – https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly
◻️ Test the speed of your site on a regular basis
- Use Google’s Page Speed Insights tool to get a good overview on mobile and desktop with suggested fixes – https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
- Use Web Page Test’s tool for a more detailed analysis – https://www.webpagetest.org/
Top tip: we recommend changing the settings to test your site three times from your nearest connection (or in your target market) which gives you an average rather than a one off test result
◻️ Run regular crawls on the sites you manage
- Using a tool like Deepcrawl you can set up a regular monthly crawl on the sites you manage which will allow you to compare each crawl and see what has changed, making it much easier to spot any potential issues
There are of course lots of other checks you need to be doing and some of these have cross over between content and technical. On-page optimisation factors such as page titles need to be configured correctly and you need to check for issues like duplicate content, however for a comprehensive list and full audit checklist, make sure you check out Geoff’s full audit.
The one thing to emphasise with this checklist is that these tasks should be carried out weekly for all your clients or on your own website so you can spot any potential issue before they develop and get out of control. For the ultimate peace of mind, speak to us here at Digital Hothouse and let us do the hard yards for you!