SEO Technical Audit Checklist (advanced)

The idea of technical SEO is to minimise the work of bots when they come to your website to index it on Google and Bing. Look at the build, the crawl and the rendering of the site.

Tools Required:

  • SEO Crawler such as Screaming Frog or DeepCrawl
  • Log File Analyzer – Screaming Frog has this too
  • Developer Tools – such as the ones found in Google Chrome – View>Developer>Developer Tools
  • Web Developer Toolbar – giving you the ability to turn off Javascript
  • Search Console
  • Bing Webmaster Tools – shows you geotargetting behaviour, gives you a second opinion on security etc.
  • Google Analytics – With onsite search tracking *

    *Great for tailoring copy and pages. Just turn it on and add query parameter

Tech SEO 1 – The Website Build & Setup

The website setup – a neglected element of many SEO tech audits.

  • Storage
    Do you have enough storage for your website now and in the near future? you can work this out by taking your average page size (times 1.5 to be safe), multiplied by the number of pages and posts, multiplied by 1+growth rate/100

for example, a site with an average page size of 1mb with 500 pages and an annual growth rate of 150%

1mb X 1.5 X 500 X 1.5 = 1125mb of storage required for the year.

You don’t want to be held to ransom by a webhost, because you have gone over your storage limit.

  • How is your site Logging Data?
    Before we think about web analytics, think about how your site is storing data.
    As a minimum, your site should be logging the date, the request, the referrer, the response and the User Agent – this is inline with the W3 Extended Format.
log file analyzer

When, what it was, where it came from, how the server responded and whether it was a browser or a bot that came to your site.

  • Blog Post Publishing
    Can authors and copywriters add meta titles, descriptions and schema easily? Some websites require a ‘code release’ to allow authors to add a meta description.
  • Site Maintenance & Updates – Accessibility & Permissions
    Along with the meta stuff – how much access does each user have to the code and backend of a website? How are permissions built in?
    This could and probably should be tailored to each team and their skillset.

    For example, can an author of a blog post easily compress an image?
    Can the same author update a menu (often not a good idea)
    Who can access the server to tune server performance?

Tech SEO 2 – The Crawl

  • Google Index

Carry out a site: search and check the number of pages compared to a crawl with Screaming Frog.

With a site: search (for example, search in Google for site:businessdaduk.com) – don’t trust the number of pages that Google tells you it has found, scrape the SERPs using Python on Link Clump:

Too many or too few URLs being indexed – both suggest there is a problem.

  • Correct Files in Place – e.g. Robots.txt
    Check these files carefully. Google says spaces are not an issue in Robots.txt files, but many coders and SEOers suggest this isn’t the case.

XML sitemaps also need to be correct and in place and submitted to search console. Be careful with the <lastmod> directive, lots of websites have lastmod but don’t update it when they update a page or post.

  • Response Codes
    Checking response codes with a browser plugin or Screaming Frog works 99% of the time, but to go next level, try using curl and command line. Curl avoids JS and gives you the response header.

Type in Curl – I and then the URL

e.g.

curl – I https://businessdaduk.com/

You need to download cURL which can be a ball ache if you need IT’s permission etc.

Anyway, if you do download it and run curl, your response should look like this:

Next enter an incorrect URL and make sure it results in a 404.

  • Canonical URLs
    Each ‘resource’ should have a single canonical address.

common causes of canonical issues include – sharing URLs/shortened URLs, tracking URLs and product option parameters.

The best way to check for any canonical issues is to check crawling behaviour and do this by checking log files.

You can check log files and analyse them, with Screaming Frog – the first 1,000 log files can be analysed with the free version (at time of writing).

Most of the time, your host will have your logfiles in the cPanel section, named something like “Raw Access”. The files are normally zipped with gzip, so you might need a piece of software to unzip them or just allow you to open them – although often you can still just drag and drop the files into Screaming Frog.

The Screaming Frog log file analyser, is a different download to the SEO site crawler – https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/log-file-analyser/

If the log files are in the tens of millions, you might need to go next level nerd and use grep in Linux command line

Read more about all things log file analysis-y on Ian Lurie’s Blog here.

This video tutorial about Linux might also be handy. I’ve stuck it on my brother’s old laptop. Probably should have asked first.

With product IDs, and other URL fragments, use a # instead of a ? to add tracking.

Using rel-canonical is a hint, not a directive. It’s a work around rather than a solution.

Remember also, that the server header, can override a canonical tag.

You can check your server headers using this tool – http://www.rexswain.com/httpview.html (at your own risk like)


Tech SEO 3 – Rendering & Speed

  • Lighthouse
    Use lighthouse, but use in with command line or use it in a browser with no browser add-ons.If you are not into Linux, use pingdom, GTMetrix and Lighthouse, ideally in a browser with no add-ons.

    Look out for too much code, but also invalid code. This might include things such as image alt tags, which aren’t marked up properly – some plugins will display the code just as ‘alt’ rather than alt=”blah”
  • Javascript
    Despite what Google says, all the SEO professionals that I follow the work of, state that client-side JS is still a site speed problem and potential ranking factor. Only use JS if you need it and use server-side JS.

    Use a browser add-on that lets you turn off JS and then check that your site is still full functional.

  • Schema

Finally, possibly in the wrong place down here – but use Screaming Frog or Deepcrawl to check your schema markup is correct.

You can add schema using the Yoast or Rank Math SEO plugins

The Actual Tech SEO Checklist (Without Waffle)

Basic Setup

  • Google Analytics, Search Console and Tag Manager all set up

Site Indexation

  • Sitemap & Robots.txt set up
  • Check appropriate use of robots tags and x-robots
  • Check site: search URLs vs crawl
  • Check internal links pointing to important pages
  • Check important pages are only 1 or 2 clicks from homepage

Site Speed

Tools – Lighthouse, GTMetrix, Pingdom

Check – Image size, domain & http requests, code bloat, Javascript use, optimal CSS delivery, code minification, browser cache, reduce redirects, reduce errors like 404s.

For render blocking JS and stuff, there are WordPress plugins like Autoptimize and the W3 Total Cache.

Make sure there are no unnecessary redirects, broken links or other shenanigans going on with status codes. Use Search Console and Screaming Frog to check.

Site UX

Mobile Friendly Test, Site Speed, time to interactive, consistent UX across devices and browsers

Consider adding breadcrumbs with schema markup.

Clean URLs

Image from Blogspot.com

Make sure URLs – Include a keyword, are short – use a dash/hyphen –

Secure Server HTTPS

Use a secure server, and make sure the unsecure version redirects to it

Allow Google to Crawl Resources

Google wants to crawl your external CSS and JS files. Use “Fetch as Google” in Search Console to check what Googlebot sees.

Hreflang Attribute

Check that you are using and implementing hreflang properly.

Tracking – Make Sure Tag Manager & Analytics are Working

Check tracking is working properly. You can check tracking coed is on each webpage with Screaming Frog.

Internal Linking

Make sure your ‘money pages’ or most profitable pages, get the most internal links

Content Audit

Redirect or unpublish thin content that gets zero traffic and has no links.

Consider combining thin content into an in depth guide or article.

Use search console to see what keywords your content ranks for, what new content you could create (based on those keywords) and where you should point internal links.

Use Google Analytics data regarding internal site searches for keyword and content ideas 💡

Update old content

Fix meta titles and meta description issues – including low CTR

Find & Fix KW cannibalization

Optimize images – compress, alt text, file name

Check proper use of H1 and H2

See what questions etc. are pulled through into the rich snipetts and answer these within content

Do you have EAT? Expertise, Authority and Trust?

https://www.semrush.com/blog/seo-checklist/

SEO – Use Search Console to Create Blog Posts that Rank

Go to search console

  • Click “Performance” in the side bar
  • Click “Position”
  • Click “Pages” (near the bottom-third of the page on the left)
  • Click on a high-performing post in terms of Impressions and Clicks in google
  • With the specific page/post selected, click on queries
  • Make a note of all relevant queries in the top 100
  • See if these queries can be added to the ranking post
  • Find any queries that are not directly related to your post
  • Create a new post specifically about this/these queries (if you rank for it without a specific post – you’ll rank better with a specific post for that query)
  • In the original post – put an internal link to the new post

Building Your Brand – Why Blog, Why Use Display Ads etc?

“You’ll never get yourself off the treadmill of paid ads, if you don’t build your brand”

Someone on a Search Podcast, 2019


It’s very easy to dismiss online content, blogs, image assets and even display ads as pretty much useless – because you don’t have the instant gratification of seeing leads and/or sales.

This is completely understandable; especially if you have a background in sales – where your job has been to ‘finish off the lead’ and get a sale.

However, if you are in it for the long (or medium) run, then building your brand is a must. Whether you are a tradesman or a giant corporation, your brand’s reputation and the brand-awareness is your safety net when it comes to consistent website traffic, leads & sales.

It takes time to build a brand – but once it is built, those people who come to you direct because they know who you are – are effectively free – or at least very cheap in comparison to some of the cost per click of Google Search Ads these days.

Building a brand is not easy however. Take my other blog for example – Blackbeltwhitehat.com

The blog has over 600 pages of content, lots of it really long, in-depth and time-consuming to produce. The site has 5,000-10,000 visitors per month, but virtually nobody comes to my website via a branded search on Google.

This could be down to one specific reason – the domain name is crap and hard to remember.

I’ve bought a few more memorable domains (like WokeMMA.com “Woke” being an ironic term for self-awareness used in the MMA & Jiu Jitsu communities) and I am currently weighing up the time & effort of re-branding everything like GoogleMyBusiness, TrustPilot etc. – plus all my back-links currently point to blackbeltwhitehat.com (I’m aware of 301s etc. but I’ll still definitely see a drop in rankings).

My blog is ultimately a hobby that I’ve invested less than $50 into over 6 years.  But if I had some more budget – I’d put together a plan to build my brand online…

Logo Design Illustrator
Blackbeltwhitehat.com

How to Build a Brand Online

First make sure you know your target audience & do one of those SWOT analysis. Then make specific goals to establish some brand KPIs.

Here are some ideas on what to do next:

  • Get a relevant, easy to remember domain name!

Learn from my mistake, a short catchy domain name is an easy-win if you are just starting out from scratch. A lot of the best and obvious domain name will be taken however, so you’ll have to do some research first. If you are just starting out, don’t name your business until you secure your domain name!

  • Display Ads

Depending on your niche, you can set tiny max CPC bids in some instances – and they’ll still get thousands of impressions for very little spend. Gmail ads work particularly well for (potential) low CPM (cost per 1000 impressions).

Rotate your display ads’ design & colours to stop people ignoring them due to ‘banner blindness’.

  • Blog & Outreach

Blog are great for reaching people who are researching a potential purchase.

For example, I landed on Perfect Keto’s blog a few times whilst researching Exogenous Ketones. Then ended up buying their branded product on Keto-pro.co.uk; because, for what ever reason, I trusted their brand.

Create great content, with statistics, images and video – and then outreach it – i.e. send it to relevant blogs and websites.

If you can afford it, use “PR-Level” outreach and contact national newspapers etc. This can be done via websites such as gorkana

If you content gets links too – then great – that’s good for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Doing some of your own exclusive research and generating tables of statistics are great for generating back-links naturally i.e. passively.

So consider doing some market research using Google surveys etc. These guys calculated RV/Campervan depreciation in value, just by looking at vehicles for sale online and get hundreds of back-links.

To turn blog’s into direct sales, you can also use relevant ‘CTA’ images below your blog.

For example, if you post a blog about the Walking Path’s of Snowdonia on your Snowdonia-based-bed-&-breakfast website; consider adding a relevant & clickable ‘book now’ and/or ‘get your free brochure’ button with eye-catching image at the bottom of the post. Many people now do this with newsletter sign up pop ups, which are a bit annoying but do work.

Before you start a blog, do your keyword research.

  • Create Tools

Content is great – but tools tend to do better than copy. For example, NerdWallet’s top page in terms of organic traffic – is their mortgage calculator.

  • Reviews

As well as brand awareness, you want some social-proofing of your brand. Start with a free account on Trustpilot and GoogleMyBusiness

  • Video & Social Media

The number 1 mistake people make on social media is to harp on about their brand all the time. Be entertaining, provide useful information and insightful comments. If you are over-promotional, people will not follow you. Build some authority by providing helpful insights that your target market will appreciate.

Videos & podcasts can be costly in terms of time. If you don’t want to set up your own podcast, guest-appearance on other people’s podcasts can generate valuable awareness and also back-links to your website (important for Search Engine Optimisation/Rankings).

  • Build an amazing product and/or service

This is your foundation and one of the reasons that Apple is so successful. An LSD-fueled Steve Jobs came up with some amazing ideas and concepts. The brand also turned itself into unique hybrid of tech & fashion thanks to their pioneering products.

The big, light-up apple on the back of Macbooks no doubt was a design aimed at building brand awareness too!

Please note – I realise this blog has a rubbish social media following. But that’s due to lack of time/money investment. I generally just use this blog as somewhere to record my thoughts & to remember how to do all things marketing related. E.g. here are my notes so I remember how to use Screaming Frog to scrape OG tags.

See my 2019 guide to Keyword Research by Clicking Here.

KW Research in 2020

Hello,

Just thought I’d write a post about how I go about doing my SEO & PPC Keyword Research these days.

  1. Add head term to google search bar in chrome

Make a note of the suggested searches & predicted searches

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 12.29.22
Predicted Searches in the Address/Search Bar
suggested google searches
Related/Suggested Searches at the Bottom

2. Google ‘Alphabet Soup’

Put in your main head term and then add a

then b, then c and so on

Make a note of the relevant suggestions

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 12.33.18
Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 12.33.21
Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 12.33.23

For product related KWs, this also works if you go to the desktop version of the Google Play Store.

3. Have a Quick Look on Reddit & Amazon

Have a look at any relevant subreddits on Reddit – e.g. https://www.reddit.com/r/jeffbridges/

Do a quick search for “KW” site:reddit.com

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 12.41.49.png

Have a look on Amazon, just search your head term and see what products appear

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 12.42.40.png

In the example above .- “The Dude and the Zen Master” might be a decent KW

Other forums can help too. For example, when looking for KWs for my MMA blog, I’ll look on sherdog forums for trending & frequent topics.

4. Add Competitor Domains to Ubersuggest

https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/ or use the SEMRush plugin.

If necessary, we could export the KWs in this report, and then filter in Excel for those containing “Jeff Bridges”

Screen Shot 2019-07-22 at 12.46.34.png

5. Upload your Final KW List to Keyword Planner

https://ads.google.com/intl/en_uk/home/tools/keyword-planner/

A final note on search volumes.

For some blogs and websites, even keywords with 0 monthly searches may be relevant.

My other blog – blackbeltwhitehat.com has built all of its traffic off KWs that Google KW planner says has 0 searches.

It all depends on how authoritative your website is and your competitors are. You can go after bigger, more popular KWs if you are a huge website with a DA of 90. It’s a different ball game if you are running a personal blog with a DA of 15

Try and include a number of the relevant searches in your articles etc.