Importance of Quality Onsite and Technical Audit at the Start of an SEO Campaign
Perhaps the most elusive thing about SEO, especially for people outside the niche, is the fact that success cannot happen overnight. In order to rank high and generate a lot of organic traffic, one must develop a strong search engine optimization strategy, each aspect of which should be planned and executed methodically and thoroughly, without any reaching for the low-hanging fruit.
Content and link building are the lifeblood of any strong content marketing campaign, but making sure technical SEO is done properly is equally paramount as it means laying the groundwork for the rest of the campaign. If we resort to using the car metaphor (yet again), we would say that creating quality content and implementing a powerful link building strategy are the fuel of a potent SEO strategy, while having a properly optimized website is the engine of the entire operation. This is why performing a detailed onsite and technical audit should be the foundation of any successful SEO campaign. Without it, your website’s content simply won’t be recognized and indexed by the search engines, which means you would basically be creating content for, well – no one.
In order to find out what is wrong (but also what is great) about your website, a thorough onsite and technical audit in the form of a detailed systematic examination needs to be performed. Only then will your website and content be ready for what comes next within the SEO campaign.
Some of the biggest benefits of a quality technical audit your business can leverage include:
- Getting objective data on the current condition of your website and tracking down the issues that are hindering your online visibility
- Finding valuable details about your competition, what they are doing right, and how to beat them
- Increasing your website’s domain authority through properly executed onsite and offsite SEO strategies
- Getting a better grasp on what exactly factors into your website’s search engine ranking, so further projects are done properly onsite-wise right from the get-go
- Helping your business boost sales, leads, and conversions
So, is your website in the need for a technical SEO audit? Let’s quick-check by seeing if you can answer any of the following questions right away:
- What’s the overall number of your backlinks?
- How many of your backlinks are marked as “Low Quality”?
- Are there any broken links? How many and why are they broken?
- Is your website using Schema Markup? If not – why (on Earth) not?
- Are your pages loading fast enough?
- Do you need to improve your URL structure game?
- Are your meta descriptions written according to Google’s preferences?
- Do you have any duplicate content that might be hurting your rankings?
- Is your website media (photos, videos, gifs, etc) implemented the right way?
- Is your website mobile-friendly?
In case you don’t have immediate answers to the questions above, your business is most likely in dire need of a technical SEO audit done professionally.
Let’s delve a bit deeper into why this process is detrimental to the overall success of your SEO campaign.
Please note that we won’t be covering the how-tos of a technical audit, but rather the importance of the process.
Making Sure Search Engines Can (Properly) Crawl Your Pages
Any SEO effort is a futile mission if your webpages are not able to be read and analyzed by Google, or any other search engine out there. In order for a search engine to return your webpage within the search results for a certain query, it has to be able to crawl your website and have a grasp on what your pages are all about. Search engines and your visitors don’t see your pages the same way, which is why the website needs to be technically structured and optimized so it is easily readable by both.
This is why the very first aspect of a technical SEO audit is making sure your pages are crawlable, especially for:
- robots.txt – files that inform user agents about the pages or folders you allow or DON’T allow to be crawled
- sitemap.xml – files that tell Google which pages are important to you – i.e. which pages you DO want to be crawled and helps to understand your site structure better
In other words, this process ensures that:
- All the right pages of your website are in fact indexed by Google
- The sitemaps are properly set up so Googlebot can easily navigate your webpages
- Your pages use the Nofollow and Noindex tags to your advantage
- There’s no duplicate content
- The web pages that feature similar content have canonical tags applied
- The 301 Redirects are set up so no dead pages are returned in the index
NOTE: We will delve deeper into some of these aspects later in this article.
Setting Up The Analytics-Based Programs Correctly
Typically, the overarching goal of an SEO campaign is to boost your online visibility, drive qualified traffic your way, and – ultimately – generate more conversions for your business. However, these almost generic notions are still pretty vague and do not answer some of the following questions:
- What are the ideal keywords your business should be ranking for?
- Is the traffic coming your way qualified?
- Are visitors converting into leads?
- Are you doing anything to track lead forms and turn them into usable, actionable data?
- Do you know how to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to leads?
In order to get usable data that will help drive your SEO campaign forward, potent tracking programs (like Google Analytics) need to be utilized and set up appropriately so you are supplied with enough data-driven metrics that will act as critical building blocks for your SEO campaign.
The Gravity of KWRM and Content Analysis
This crucial technical audit phase also involves:
- keyword research
- keyword mapping
- content analysis
…tasks so paramount for the entire process, they can undoubtedly make or break both your onsite and your offsite SEO strategies. In order for link building, online promotion, and the process of boosting the website’s authority to take best possible effect, we need to ensure the pages need to be appropriately targeted towards the right keywords.
To achieve this, one must pay close attention to the technical aspects that include meta descriptions, title tags, URL structure and on-page content. Though these tasks may not sound like a lot of fun, they do make a difference and bring consistency and value to your SEO endeavors.
Taking Care of Duplicate Content
Duplicate content refers to the content that is available on multiple site-wide or web-wide locations. It is often situated on different URLs, while it can also come up on different domains, and most typically occurs either inadvertently or as the outcome of a sub-par technical implementation.
Though Google’s duplicate content penalty myth has been debunked multiple times over the years, it can hurt your rankings, which is why checking for and dealing with duplicate content is an important part of any technical SEO audit.
Making your website mobile-friendly has been a must for quite a while now. According to a recent Desk vs Mobile Traffic Case Study published on WebTrafficGeeks: “In January 2019, the worldwide mobile phone traffic market share was 49.11% compared to desktop traffic at 47.02%. Tablets took the remaining 3.87% of the website traffic. Considering that tablets are deemed be part of mobiles we can comfortably say mobile traffic was more than 50%.”
This means that, if there are certain issues with HTML and CSS and your website isn’t properly optimized for the users coming from mobile devices so they can effortlessly use and navigate your pages, your bounce rate will likely skyrocket, which is never a good thing. This is where mobile optimization aspect of technical SEO audit comes in to make sure your website runs smoothly across all portable devices.
Paying Attention to Site Structure
When structuring a website, it is paramount to make the site architecture appealing to both the search engines and the users coming your way. Websites that feature a clear and logical structure allow search engines to easily crawl their pages, while it also ensures the visitors can easily find what they are looking for via effortless navigation. This is why it is crucial to:
- keep your paths and URLs logical, clean and simple
- link all the important pages from your home page
- take care of 301 redirect implementation whenever you update your structure
- implement canonical tags where necessary
Page Load Speed as an Important Ranking Factor
Page Load Speed, or Page Speed, refers to how much time it takes for the search engine to load the content of your webpage, and is considered to be among the critical ranking factors by Google. If your webpage is taking a long time to load, it is highly likely that your visitors will lose interest in what your great content may offer them, which as a result increases your bounce rate and this leads to lower rankings and/or decreased sales.
Optimizing Images, Meta Descriptions, URLs and Structured Data
Optimizing the URL structure has become an important part of onsite SEO. In the olden days of digital marketing, the URLs and slugs were rather messy and confusing, while now they can be used to leverage keywords and quickly inform the search engines, but also the users, what a certain page is all about.
Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when it comes to structuring your URLs:
- Don’t use extraneous characters
- Make URLs as short as possible, while keeping all the info on what type of content your page harbors
- Decide on one method and keep your URL structure consistent from that moment on
- Avoid the use of parameters, if possible
Writing proper meta descriptions – especially in terms of length, keywords, and the information it provides – can have a great impact on both your rankings and people browsing for the content you can provide them. Here’s what meta descriptions look like when people search for content:
As you can see, meta tells the potential visitor (who is going through the SERPs for the query they need) what your page offers. You can use keywords within your metas, but make sure you don’t overdo it.
According to Google, hundreds of millions of Internet users discover and explore the content they need visually via Google image search. Moz also revealed that image search represents 27% of all queries generated across the top 10 US web search properties. These numbers account for why image optimization is among the musts when it comes to technical SEO audit.
The images your pages feature, if implemented and wielded the right way, can be potent SEO weapons. Utilizing the “alt tags” and image descriptions, choosing the right format sizes, as well as properly hosting and caching the images- can be quite beneficial to your overall onpage SEO efforts. To find out more on this topic – visit this informative Search Engine Land article.
Structured data is basically a markup written in a way search engines are able to understand. Utilizing the structured data the right way means Google can read it, process it and deploy it when it comes to displaying your page within the search results, which is especially handy for those who want to utilize rich snippets for their pages.
For example, let’s say you have a cooking-based website that mainly features recipes. By adding structured data to your recipes, your pages will have a plethora of additional information when displayed in the SERPs, aside from just the title, URL and meta:
With this rich snippets displayed above, the potential visitor also gets:
- The rating
- How many reviews the rating is based on
- How long it will take to make this dish
- How many calories it holds
The best way to take proper care of structured data – aside from getting a professional technical SEO audit – is to implement the appropriate Schema.org vocabulary. Schema is a project developed by big search engines where you can get the code for all structured data markups supported by the search engines.
Aside from all the aforementioned aspects of technical SEO, there are numerous other onsite tasks that also need to be dealt with:
- Checking your HTTPS status codes
- Taking care of broken links
- Taking care of canonical URLs
- Checking for keyword cannibalization
- Checking for potential duplicate or missing metadata
- Error Pages and redirects (HTTP 301, 302, 404, 503…)
- Setting up the correct HTTP headers to force the single domain name approach
As you can see, technical SEO involves a lot of moving parts, and each of them needs to be approached and handled professionally and with great attention to detail. Only then will your website be ready for what comes next in your big-picture SEO strategy.
Feel free to contact Elevate Digital for any potential Technical and onsite SEO issues your website may have.