A thorough examination of your website
An audit of high quality doesn’t just flag issues. Expect each issue to be accompanied by an actionable recommendation to remediate the current set-up that’s the cause of the problem. This is very important, as otherwise chances of implementation are extremely low, and without implementation, results won’t be achieved; something we’ll cover in further detail later on. Conciseness is also important here, only surfacing the necessary context and guidance that’s most critical, avoiding a 100-page document nobody will have time to read. A clear, well-structured request for change has a greater chance of being implemented than large paragraphs of unnecessary text.
Relevant recommendations will also consider your specific tech stack and business priorities, as we’ll cover in more detail later in this article.
Reasons why you might need a technical audit for your site
There are so many occasions where scheduling a technical SEO audit is recommended but, as a minimum, we recommend carrying out this project on the below scenarios:
- Reactive: If you have noticed a decline in your organic search performance, but it’s difficult to identify the specific cause. This is the less ideal scenario and, too often, the main reason brands reach out to us for guidance.
- Foundational: Auditing alongside developing an SEO strategy is really important to ensure successful content and digital PR activity and maximise the success of your strategies.
- Preventive: An annual audit of your website to determine how well its technical SEO health fares is also recommended. Similarly, when carrying out a migration, a pre-migration audit to analyse a new website before launch will also be critical (sometimes this is called a ‘staging site review’).
Pre-audit discussion should be a given
Before the audit activity is started, we highly recommend holding a kick-off meeting involving all parties. At a minimum, this meeting should be attended by the internal SEO lead and/or team member(s), the Digital Marketing Manager, the Development lead and the SEO team conducting the audit.
The aim of the meeting is for the audit team to gather sufficient information to tailor the output of the audit making sure it’s valuable to your business. In these sessions, we look to cover the following key topics:
What constitutes success for your business
This is a critical topic to cover in the quick off discussion. The audit team needs to understand what constitutes success for you; this might be elevating or recapturing prime visibility for priority keywords, in-turn closing the gap on competitors or increasing organic conversions.
This awareness is extremely beneficial to ensure that the audit delivers maximum impact but quickly hones in on any issues that would provide real uplift, and return on your investment.
Access to your analytics platform and Google Search Console
Whilst this isn’t mandatory, access to these two data sources will increase the chances of discovering issues. The data can also be used to strengthen the case for, and prioritisation of, implementation as current impact can be identified (e.g., traffic reaching a blank page or an error page).
Your current development priorities
Go through anything that’s already in the dev queue or current sprints on this call. Sharing these will allow the audit team not to waste time investigating and flagging any issues or opportunities you’re already aware of and planning to remediate and, instead, focus on undiscovered issues.
Ensuring the team can access your site
To complete the audit, your website needs to be crawled by the party completing it. In simple terms, a crawler is a piece of software that can mimic how search engines discover and render your web pages.
If your server can only handle a certain number of requests per second, share this instruction so that it’s not overloaded and, in the worst-case scenario, wiped out of action.
Another point in the agenda is if whitelisting of IP addresses is required to successfully crawl your website. This is something we’re frequently having to confirm with our clients, with security layers in place at either their server or CDN level to, for example, block any requests that mimic Google.
Discussing these in a quick-off call will allow you to avoid accessibility issues which often cause delays in the delivery of the project.
The format of delivery that best suits you
For some, a long written document isn’t ideal as time is required to sit through the information included but also lift and share priority issues. Expect a good SEO consultant to be flexible and happy to deliver in a way that suits your internal teams most effectively.
This is something we do at Builtvisible. It’s not unusual to share issues as and when we spot them should this be the preferred option for a client and we also get access to project management platforms often, to lift the burden of ticket writing, and publishing issues directly.
Log files can greatly improve the effectiveness of the audit
Perhaps an underutilised data source when it comes to technical SEO auditing. Logs are optional but something we push to obtain when completing our technical audits. These files are generated at the server level, capturing and recording data about requests made to visit pages on your website – including those made by search engines like Google. They allow you to understand how Google is interacting with your site, and how the site is responding to these requests.
Log file analysis is extremely useful in the discovery of issues, when gauging their severity and when quantifying the impact of fixing them. They also allow us to communicate more effectively in audit write up. For example, claiming that 20% of your crawl budget is being wasted on redirect chains is a lot more impactful than stating that you have 1000 redirect chains.
Let’s take a look at an example; in this instance, we saw a significantly high amount of crawl budget waste: 40% overall. That’s Google crawling URLs they didn’t need to.
Going a step further, we looked at what URLs Googlebot was requesting that they didn’t need to. In this case, expired deals URLs made up the bulk of these:
It’s worth checking in with your IT or website management team if logs are currently being recorded and can be shared on request.
Don’t settle for sub-standard consulting
When you invest in a technical audit, you should expect to receive an audit that’s bespoke to your website. Be wary of receiving a list of issues that have been generated by a third-party tool, a practice that is still rife in the industry. Whilst some of these issues may be genuine, they may not provide much in the way of ROI. The audit should only include issues, with accompanying recommendations, that are tight to your current set-up and, when implemented, will drive increased conversions.
I won’t delve into what expert SEO auditing looks like as many of the points that our Technical Director, Will Nye, raises in this post still ring true. He covers areas such as what makes for a good change recommendation and prioritisation, so have a read if you want to expand a bit more on this.
Implementation drives transformation
It’s not uncommon for audits to be delivered and subsequently consigned to a burgeoning pile of competing business priorities, meaning business transformation languishes on paper.
Good auditing must consider and account for implementation. At Builtvisible, we place a large focus on facilitating implementation for our clients and maintaining momentum and helping them secure the required – often in demand – development resource.
It all starts with a delivery call
The audit delivery should be accompanied by a delivery call, where all related stakeholders and parties involved in the implementation phase join to discuss the main findings and priorities for implementation. It’s very important that representatives of the development team working through the recommendations assist this session, as part of the focus of this meeting will be answering any initial questions the development team might have, ensuring all the recommendations are clearly understood and that there are no blockers or dependencies for their implementation.
An extra pair of hands
In addition to the technical audit project, we also tend to have a line item for implementation that we use in the following ways:
- A frequent blocker of implementation we’ve encountered is not enough development resources. Forecasting the potential gains from implementing recommendations is a very effective way to overcome this problem and one we often do for our clients.
- Creating development tickets and feeding these into project management platforms can save development time and ensure implementations are correct.
- Tracking the status of all technical SEO issues raised via a Kanban board, ensuring progress and momentum.
- Thoroughly testing development tickets in staging to ensure their effectiveness, sharing feedback by preferred means.
- Conducting rigorous post-live testing of releases to validate their impact.
- Reporting back on the impact of the implemented recommendations. This might seem like a simple task but one that can generate further momentum for future SEO implementations by showcasing the impact of internal development changes.
Remember, the value of your audit depends on whether it’s being implemented or not. For this reason, when reviewing the project scope that comes across to you for approval, it’s well worth asking how the audit team will support you in implementing the containing recommendations.
With a new or enhanced understanding of what technical auditing activity involves and when is recommended, you should now feel more comfortable when making the decision to allocate your budget to this activity. At the same time, you’re now aware of what the key expectations are across all involved parties to ensure you receive an effective audit document which implementation drives a meaningful impact for your business, through a prioritised list of relevant and impactful issues along with clear and actionable recommendations to fix them.
Remember that the project doesn’t finish here as the business value of recommendations surfaced comes from the implementation of them. Make sure the team working on the audit has a clear plan for guiding you through the implementation phase as well.
If you’re considering conducting a technical SEO audit to your site, drop us a message and our team of experts will get in touch.