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Site health leads to organic wealth. Here’s what you need to know about technical SEO audits & why they’re so important.
Solid technical SEO acts as a fundamental building block in creating a site which is conducive to performing optimally in organic search. And much like in architecture itself, a structure is only as strong as the foundations on which it is built on. As an expert SEO agency who pride ourselves on thinking different, we believe SEO isn’t just for machines but for humans as well. With this being said, communicating effectively with these machines (search engines) through technical SEO is a crucial part of organic search success.
A technical SEO audit is a process in which one assesses the performance of certain key facets of a website. In a nutshell, a technical SEO audit acts as a site health check-up, diagnosing the errors and prescribes the fixes. Search engine spiders, also known as bots, crawl sites periodically to understand a site or page’s content and whilst doing so, they index (store) and assess the ranking viability of a page based on preferred practises which then informs ranking positioning.
The purpose of a technical SEO audit is to fix these issues to make this process of crawling & indexation easier, by following best practices to avoid ranking penalties and boost SERP positioning.
There are certain key facets that must be at the forefront when thinking of technical SEO. These elements include the following:
Crawlability is essentially how well search engine crawlers are able to parse through the information it encounters on a particular site or page. By using robots.txt rules, it is possible to give crawlers specific directives such as the “Disallow” command that blocks them from crawling particular areas of your site. With this rule in place, those disallowed pages will not appear in search.
It is crucial that you prioritise the pages of value on your site by disallowing pages that are not of value in search. Common examples of superfluous pages that should be disallowed are tag pages from blogs (common in WordPress) and checkout related pages on eCommerce sites. The more time crawlers spend parsing through non-essential pages, the less time they spend on pages that matter most to your site.
Indexation is the action that search engines take after completing a crawl in which they store that page within its index (database). After crawling a page on any given site, the search engine then goes through the process of deciding whether or not it will index that page. There are several mitigating factors that search engines will consider before indexing content and showing it in search. For example, if it finds content to be copied from elsewhere on the web, known more commonly as ‘Duplicate Content’, it may choose not to index it. In addition, if the page is suffering from performance related issues, has a low text to html ratio or has large amounts of plagiarised or poorly cited/researched content then the page may be crawled but not indexed.
With each passing month, algorithms are becoming increasingly focused on the trust and usefulness of content, which is why many medical related sites have been finding their content de-valued or sometimes de-indexed from Google.
Site performance typically encompasses a variety of areas, though the most commonly thought of aspect of site performance in technical SEO is page speed. Unfortunately, this tends to be an area which we find client websites suffer with time & again. Being that this is an area which directly affects user experience whilst navigating through any given site, page speed is one of the more prominent ranking factors that Google considers when ordering sites in SERP (search engine results pages).
Free tools such as GTmetrix and Web.dev offer speed tests across mobile and desktop versions of a page with a detailed breakdown of what performance pitfalls it has encountered with detailed explanations of what they mean. Web.dev also excels as a multifaceted audit tool created by Google to allow developers to see where their website is falling down in multiple areas pertaining to SEO as well as page speed and what can be done to fix the issues.
As a result, it is in your site’s best interest to have pages load as fast as they possibly can in order to maximise its ranking potential. This will in turn give users a substantially better browsing experience, which promotes more interaction with your site as a whole – increasing potential for conversions.
Technical SEO audits are crucial to understand how a site is operating under the hood. These crucial checks bring any underlying errors & issues to light, and once these diagnosed issues are resolved…rewards are then passed on in terms of ranking boosts in SERP. Site health and organic performance are directly linked. Therefore, it is always in a website’s best interest to make sure essential aspects of the site are running as optimally as possible.
It is important to remember that performing a technical SEO audit upon a site is not simply a case of scores and numbers. Some pagespeed/SEO testing tools use unrealistic examples as a barometer against which your site will be compared to. A comprehensive technical SEO audit such as the ones that we conduct at Seed take into account real world performance and measure against realistic goals & expectations. It is important to take metrics into account across multiple tools, meaning you have a wider understanding of the issues at play, allowing you to tackle them in a more digestible way.
The future of technical SEO is naturally something which is incredibly difficult to predict, though we can attempt to channel our inner nostradamus based on recent trends and events to paint a picture of technical SEO’s future regarding one shift in particular.
Since July 1st, Google has been introducing its mobile-first indexing initiative. What this means is that Google will mainly look to use the mobile version of your site as the basis for its indexing and ranking practises where it can. This is to account for mobile being the dominant platform in which users browse with as opposed to desktop.
As mobile-first indexing is in its infancy, its ranking biases do not have the depth as would be expected. In its current iteration, mobile-first is simply an on or off in terms of whether a given page is compliant. With mobile devices varying wildly in terms of their power and display capabilities, page speed is a key factor in mobile-indexing. Though as it stands, sites are only penalised if speeds are extremely slow.
In future, we would expect speed standards to become more strict and site speed as a result will become even more important than it is now. The Technical SEOs industry will now have to shift their thinking from a desktop bias to a mobile one. The same attention to elements such as structured data, pagination, internal linking etc that was given to desktop versions of a page will also need to be given to mobile.