As a business owner, you understand the importance of online visibility has in relation to your growth potential. You’ve likely already researched how to do your own SEO, and have learned that, at its core, SEO is not overly complex. However, you have come across an area of high importance, and you don’t even know where to start – Technical SEO. Most business owners we work with are shocked at the number of crawl errors found on their website. For example, a recent SEO study found that in a sample of 100,000 websites, over 80% had at least one 404 error, also known as a dead page. Many of these errors can only be found by running an audit on the technical health of your site. This article will show you the basic steps in running a technical SEO audit on your site.
Understanding Your First Tech SEO Audit
In order to get a comprehensive understanding of what needs to be done to optimize your site, you first need to understand what the current errors are. We recommend two approaches to this: use a crawler software that emulates the google crawlers to explore errors and doing a manual scan where you seek out these errors as a user would find them.
There are a wide variety of tools for you to utilize in order to get a thorough report of what is happening on the back end of your website. At Firestarter SEO, we use tools like Moz and Agency Analytics. These tools will comb through every page of your website in an effort to replicate how Google and other search engines see your site. Once they have finished their crawl, they will provide an in-depth report on which crawl errors they found. The report should look something like this:
In this list, you will find a variety of errors, some more critical than others. For example, this website has 3 4XX errors. These represent dead pages on your website that have not been properly redirected and are crucial to minimizing because of the negative experience they can provide for your site’s visitors. On the other hand, there are 32 pages with missing meta descriptions. While descriptions help your conversion rate, they actually don’t impact your rankings and would be considered a low priority.
The power of using software to crawl your site revolves around a few areas. First, using these tools will make finding crawl errors significantly easier and less time-consuming. They do the hard work for you. Second, they allow you to stay updated however frequently you’d like. Whether you want an automated monthly report, or you prefer updates more often, you will have the information at your fingertips whenever you want it. Finally, the reports offer specific details that would be difficult to discover on your own. For example, not only do you know that there are 28 pages with long titles, but you can also drill down and see the specific URLs of each page with that error.
The good news is that there are a number of affordable solutions. If you’re considering managing your own SEO, this will be an invaluable tool.
As useful as the crawlers are, they still can’t completely replace the human eye when auditing your site. At Firestarter SEO, when we are auditing a client’s site manually, we look at a number of things, but the most common things we look at are:
- Titles – The title is the most important on-site element for your visibility. It provides a clear indication to search engines of what the purpose and content of that page entail. While a crawler does a great job of identifying when a title is missing, or if it’s too short, it won’t tell you if it’s applicable to the content & optimized. For example, we can’t even count the number of times we have been auditing a website and have come across a title on the site’s homepage that reads, “Home.” A crawler will tell you one thing: that’s a short title. It doesn’t tell you that with the current title, you’re telling Google that you want to show up for whoever does a search for “home.” Not only is that irrelevant to what your business does, but it’s also far too vague to be effective. If this were for Firestarter SEO, a better title would read, “Denver SEO Company, Monthly SEO | Firestarter Search Engine Optimization.”
You can check your titles a few ways, but we recommend going to whichever page on your site you want to audit, and right-clicking (or pressing Ctrl+U). It will pull up the page’s source code. When this is pulled up, press Ctrl+F, and type in: Title. Towards the top of your document, you should see the meta title of the page.
- Image Alt Attributes – As a robot, a search engine can’t actually see a picture. So, image alt attributes assist search engines in understanding what a picture is about. This is often a missed opportunity on a website, as optimizing alt attributes can assist with showing up in traditional and image-based searches. The easiest way to see what your alt attributes are for an image is to find an image on your site, right-click, and choose “Inspect.” This will pull up a section to the right of your screen (or potentially as a pop up) that should look slightly similar to the code you just viewed when looking for titles. In this code, you will see a section called “alt=” – which ideally would be followed by a description of the image.
In the image above, you can see the alt text that describes the image selected. If your images are missing this attribute, it’s an indicator that you have some optimization to do.
- HTML Headings – The final element we recommend auditing is your HTML Headings. In a previous article, we discussed why using headings is so crucial to organizing your page and providing useful information to users and search engines. Every page on your site should have 1 (and only 1), H1 tag. However, you should also utilize H2s, H3s, etc., as necessary. To check this, take the “View Page Source” route as mentioned above, and do a Ctrl+F search for H1, H2, etc. as you’re reviewing these, you can identify red flags if there are missing H1s, or if your headings don’t have any valuable keywords that you should be targeting.
Auditing your site can become a time-consuming process if you don’t have the right tools or strategy in place. With a better understanding of what to look for and what to use, you can take the first step towards increasing your website’s optimization and visibility. While there are many more technical SEO areas to cover, if it ever becomes too much to handle, contact your SEO company for help.