Running a technical website audit takes more effort than you might think. It’s like a 1000-piece Lego set that’s difficult to assemble without detailed instructions, which is why we prepared this ultimate guide to website auditing for you.
We’ll look at what a site audit is and how often it should be performed. You’ll also learn how to analyze a website, check it for various errors using SE Ranking’s Website Audit, evaluate the results and prioritize fixes, and even write technical assignments for the development team. You’ll also receive a website technical audit checklist to help you evaluate your website.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
What is a site audit?
A site audit is a comprehensive and detailed website analysis. It identifies errors and problems (technical, content, UX, conversion, etc.) that can be resolved to improve the performance of your website and business.
A technical website audit, which can also be referred to as a site audit, identifies technical SEO issues. Both terms are interchangeable, but the former is more specific and is the kind of check we’ll focus on in this article.
The issues that can be detected during a technical site audit include:
- Indexation problems
- Errors in the code
- Incorrect work of redirects
- Broken links and website files
- Slow loading speed and poor Core Web Vitals
- Incorrect server responses
- Duplicate content and pages
- Misconfiguration of the sitemap and robots.txt, etc.
Why is regular site analysis critical?
If a website is a car, then a site analysis is the technical inspection done on it. It is mandatory to carry out this ‘inspection’ on a regular basis. This way, you can identify technical breakdowns and malfunctions that prevent your ‘car’ from performing its primary function effectively as well as save money on expensive repairs.
Why do a website audit? Because it helps site owners:
- Understand how healthy their resource is.
- Identify errors that prevent it from functioning correctly.
- Make a list of pages and issues that need to be revised and fixed.
- Reveal potential technical problems that can affect the site’s functioning.
The frequency of this kind of site analysis depends on several factors:
- How well it performs
If you check your website traffic and notice that it has decreased significantly (or that it doesn’t increase, no matter what you do), it’s high time to check the technical component of your site. This also holds true if the percentage of your conversions has dropped (or visitors don’t convert at all). Maybe your clients can’t see your pages because they aren’t indexed, or they can’t land on them due to broken links. There could be numerous reasons for this, and a technical audit allows you to identify and fix them.
- How big your site is
Sites with thousands of pages can often have errors like duplicate content, misconfigured redirects, unclear structure, and confusing navigation. Voluminous sites with loads of content should be audited more often because the errors above can lead to deteriorated UX and, ultimately, lower rankings.
- How often your site gets updated
By “updates,” we mean any changes to your site, from design and address changes to the appearance of new pages and content. You should ideally check the site after each update.
How to do a website audit
Manually conducting technical audits is a lengthy and resource-intensive process. It’s easier to use specialized site scanners, such as Website Audit from SE Ranking, in conjunction with Google Search Console.
Website Audit provides the most comprehensive and accurate check because it scans the entire site, identifies dozens of technical errors, and provides recommendations on how to fix them. Moreover, you can manage and customize your audit using flexible settings.
How to set up an automated audit in SE Ranking
SE Ranking’s Website Audit has a variety of settings to make technical audits convenient and effective. Below, we’ve laid out everything you need to know about setting up an automated audit with the settings that work best for you.
To open settings, go to the Website Audit and click on the gear icon at the top right of the screen.
You can start the audit manually whenever you want by selecting the Manually option, or you can set the frequency with which it will be performed automatically (weekly or monthly, specifying the day and time that suits you).
You can also add your email to get notified once the audit is finished.
Pages to scan
You can scan all pages of your site starting from the homepage. The scanner will follow every internal link but won’t include subdomains. If you want to check subdomains and their pages, enable the Subdomains slider.
Another option is to scan every page specified in the XML sitemap. You can also add the list of pages that you want the tool to audit. Make sure it’s in a TXT or CSV format.
Enable or disable the toggle next to each rule to give the SE Ranking bot scanning instructions. Depending on your choice, the SE Ranking bot will scan the site following instructions in the robots.txt file or ignore them.
The same applies to Ignore Noindex and Ignore Nofollow. If enabled, the bot will ignore the noindex and nofollow directives.
If you want the SE Ranking bot to crawl or ignore certain website sections or pages, enter them into the Website directories field under the Additional rules section. Click on Add rule, enter the directory and choose one of the following rules:
- Permit (to enable crawling the pages from a specified directory)
- Prohibit (to disable crawling the pages from a specified directory)
- Hide (to exclude from the report the pages from a specified directory)
You can also specify URL parameters that should be ignored while scanning. Select Ignore all parameters to exclude all values or choose Ignore custom parameters to manually set which ones to ignore.
Because some websites may prevent specific crawlers from crawling their pages, the audit may be incomplete or inaccurate. If your site has this feature, you can manually choose a bot for crawling. SE Ranking’s bot is selected by default, but you’ll have a list of 13 other bots to choose from. Just select a User Agent name, and our system will use it to crawl your site.
The Cloudflare Firewall can sometimes block SE Ranking’s bot. If this is the case, it will be unable to crawl the website, but you can remove restrictions by whitelisting IPs. Here’s what you should do:
- Go to your Cloudflare dashboard.
- Choose your account and domain.
- Go to the Security section and click WAF.
- Select the Tools subsection.
- Enter one of SE Ranking’s IPs under IP Access Rules.
- Select an Allow action.
- Choose the Current website only or All websites in the account in the Zone section to specify where the rule should apply.
- Hit the Add button.
Some pages can also be restricted for the crawler you choose. Enter the login and password for the SE Ranking bot in the appropriate fields to give it access to specific pages.
Crawling limits and restrictions
Under this section, you can manage the following parameters:
- The number of pages to scan. Specify the number of pages the bot should crawl. Consider your subscription limits and your needs.
- Scanning depth. Decide how deep you want the bot to go.
- The number of server requests. Decide on the number of requests that suits you, depending on the server’s capabilities. But remember that too many can overload the server, while too few can affect the crawl speed of your site.
- The number of redirects. Indicate the number of redirects for a crawler to scan during the audit.
When analyzing and evaluating the site, the SE Ranking bot focuses on what search engines recommend and considers common best practices. The basic parameters, however, aren’t always one-size-fits-all. You can customize settings in this section, and the bot will take new values into account when scanning the site and generating a report.
You can set up:
- Meta tag title length
- Meta tag description length
- Maximum page size
- The minimum number of words on the page
- H1 header maximum length
- H2 header maximum length
Issues to monitor
All issues, by order of importance, are grouped into errors, warnings, and notices. Errors are the most critical issues to fix, while notices are just cautionary information. Each error comes with a description and suggestions on how to fix it.
You can enable or disable the whole category as well as individual issues within it. If disabled, the SE Ranking bot won’t detect said issues during the scan. It also won’t include them in the report, and won’t consider them when calculating your website’s health score.
When you’ve finished customizing all of the settings, hit the Apply Changes button to save your changes. You can immediately run an audit with the new parameters. The crawl may take several minutes depending on your site’s size.
Audit results review
When the in-depth scanning is completed, the results will be available in the Website Audit module. You can also open it through the left-hand vertical navigation bar.
Depending on the purpose of your technical audit, you can use the Website Audit tool’s various tabs. For example:
- If you want to get a general picture of your website’s technical health, go to the Overview tab.
- If you’re interested in specific technical and other errors detected on your site, open the Issue Report tab.
- If you want to analyze website pages by specific parameters or have high-priority pages that you want to focus on first, use the Crawled Pages tab.
- If you need to track down errors in images, files, or code, go to the Found Resources tab..
- If you want to check if your website has internal or external linking problems, open the Found Links tab.
- If you want to compare the results of multiple audits and find the date an issue occurred, check out the Crawl Comparison tab.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each task and report.
Getting the bigger picture
Select the Overview report from the Website Audit module to get all of your site’s key information in convenient and easy-to-understand graphs, charts, and tables. This tab will help you gauge the technical situation of your website.
The Health Score of your website is one of the most important features of this report. It is calculated based on the number and severity of issues found during the audit. This means that a site with a high number of low-severity errors will have a higher health score than one with fewer high-severity errors. It makes SE Ranking’s health score more accurate.
In this section, you’ll also see the:
- Number of pages scanned and URLs found.
- Core Web Vitals gradation and top five issues found.
- Distribution of scanned pages by issue categories.
- HTTP status codes and server response time.
- Number of redirects and detached pages.
- Link attributes, meta robots tags, and more.
Analyzing issues found
If you want to know what’s wrong with your sitemap, hreflang tags, redirects, etc., you should go to the Issue Report. Having all the issues structured on one dashboard will help you better assess the time and effort needed.
Website audit examines the site using 130 parameters and categorizes errors into 19 categories. Each category and issue includes a list of affected pages and a description to help you understand why fixing is essential, as well as the problem location to help you quickly detect affected pages. Fix tips are also available.
Each issue also has a special mark to indicate its severity. This is especially important when it comes to prioritizing fixes (as we’ll discuss later in this article).
- A green check mark means that the parameter is error-free.
- A blue exclamation mark is called a Notice. It indicates that the issue may not be a problem but should be investigated (links are missing anchors, H1 tags are too short, etc.).
- A red cross is called an Error. It highlights the most critical issues that are likely to harm your SEO and result in a negative user experience (HTTP status code issues, duplicate pages, redirect chains, etc.).
Errors, Warnings, and Notices can also be used as issue filters. You can view all problems or choose the group in which you are now more interested.
Focusing on pages
Open the Crawled Pages tab if you want to analyze specific pages or find pages with specific errors. This section shows every page that the bot has found on your website during the audit. You can view all pages at once or sort them by the above-mentioned Errors, Warnings, and Notices.
For each URL, you’ll get:
- The number of referring pages.
- The number of issues detected.
- The number of characters in the URL.
- The type and version of the web protocol.
- Sitemap inclusion data.
- Server response code on the page.
- Blocking by robots.txt data.
- And many other parameters.
You can also expand your report and add columns with other errors by using the Columns option.
By clicking on the number of issues detected on the page, you’ll see a list of all the problems the page has, along with more info. Each issue has a prioritization mark and comes with a description and fix tips.
To find pages with specific problems, use filters.
Let’s say you want to detect soft 404 pages. This error occurs when the page doesn’t exist, but sometimes the server will return a 200 OK response code. This can happen if there’s no content or very little of it on the page.
To find these pages, navigate to the Crawled Pages section filters and choose the following parameters: Status Code>and Issues>Textual Content>Low word count>or Issues>Crawling>Frame is used. Click the Apply Filters button to get all potential soft 404 pages in one second.
You should also check to see if private pages are blocked by robots.txt or noindex.
Private pages contain a user’s sensitive information, like a login page. These pages should be excluded from indexing, but sometimes they aren’t.
To find them, go to the Crawled Pages section and apply the following filters: URL>login>or URL>profile>and robots meta tag>noindex
These are just a few examples. Pages can be filtered by various categories and errors. This allows you to focus first on solving critical issues on the pages that matter most.
Analyzing web pages separately allows you to identify and fix even minor issues. You can also use URL patterns to quickly analyze a page’s indexing status, link ratio, and page meta tags.
Checking website resources
The effectiveness of your site depends on how well you work with its image and code files. For example, your site’s page loading speed and Core Web Vitals can be negatively impacted if it has too many large images. Check the Found resources section under the Website Audit tool to identify these issues.
For each resource found, you’ll get:
- The number of pages on which it’s located.
- It’s type (image, CSS, JS).
- The server response code on the page.
- It’s size.
- It’s loading time.
You can also use these categories as filters to customize your audit and find resources that are causing malfunctions on your site.
Click on the Source URL to view the list of all URLs that contain the found resource. Each link will come with status information (dofollow/nofollow), the image’s alternative text (if there’s any), title, and its uniqueness.
One of the most common resource-related errors is having images that are too big. Our recent research shows that 83.87% of websites suffer from this, so we advise you to use filters to see if you belong to this surprisingly large group.
To list images that are too large on your site, go to the Found Resources section and select the Images in the sorting panel. Then, press Add Filter and choose Size. The optimal image size is less than 2MB, so enter 2048 as a starting point and hit the Apply Filters button.
Links are critical for optimizing your website. Internal links help users and search engines navigate your website, while external links allow your users to get more information. It’s likely that the main issue here is broken links, which also happens to be the most common.
The Found links section shows every internal and external link to your website, along with their:
- Status code
- Link type (image, CSS, JS, hyperlink, canonical, hreflang, meta refresh)
- Source URL
- Anchor text
- Anchor type (text or image)
- Alt attribute
- Status data (dofollow/nofollow)
This section also has a filtering option to help you with your audit.
Let’s say you want to detect broken internal links on your site. Just open filters in the Internal Links tab, choose status code 404, and click Apply Filter. You’ll immediately see a list of broken links, as well as the pages from which they are linked, along with additional data.
Comparing audit results
If you’ve performed several audits, you can compare their results. This will help you understand the effectiveness of your fixes since the previous check and identify when new errors occurred.
Go to the Crawl Comparison and choose two dates. You’ll see how the health score has changed, which metrics improved or got worse, and how the number of fixes and new errors correlate.
Technical website audit pro tips
With years of SEO experience, we’ve discovered five secrets that can help your technical audit be even more effective. We’re excited to share them with you, so remember these tips because they’ll come in handy.
- If you have a large site, we suggest that you prioritize your pages and start with the ones that are the most important to you. These could be the pages that drive the most traffic, leads, or conversions or those that are critical for brand awareness (home page, contact page, etc.). Once these pages are fine, you can proceed to the less important ones.
- Use the Page Changes Monitor tool under the Website Audit module to track important pages and monitor the changes made to them. It’s in the left-hand navigation bar and detects any changes to the pages you add, such as title, description, headings, content, internal and external links, robots.txt, HTTP code, canonical URL, and so on. You’ll also get notifications about these updates.
- The first time is an accident, the second time is a coincidence, and three times is a pattern. In the context of website audits, look for error patterns. One-time errors can still be a problem, but if the same error occurs repeatedly, you should probably reconsider your overall approach.
- Pretend you’re a detective who uses a red string to connect related crimes. You’re basically doing the same during the audit when analyzing the relationship between errors found. If, for example, an audit reveals that you don’t have enough text on the page, this will result in an unsatisfactory text-to-HTML ratio.
- Don’t forget about your competitors. If you’ve found an ambiguous error or can’t decide on a possible solution to the problem, check how your competitors solved it. Conduct an audit of a competitor’s website to determine the approach they took and whether it worked.
And, of course, use filters to view and analyze web pages and find links and resources according to the parameters you need. In the preceding section, we discussed how to use them. If you suspect a problem exists, you can apply filters to catch it faster.
Website audit checklist
We’ve compiled a technical audit checklist to help you analyze the site and not miss anything. It contains all the basic checks that you need to carry out. You can follow it step by step or adapt it to your needs and mark every box once you complete the inspection.
Once you’ve made a list of checks that your website requires and ran them, you’ll be able to see what corrections you need to make. Now it’s time to prioritize them, which is what our next section is about.
Prioritizing website audit fixes
Now that you have all of this information, you need a plan. It’s impossible to do everything at once, but even if it was possible, it would require a lot of resources—people, time, and money. Lacking even one of these resources can lead to poor-quality fixes. Prioritizing website corrections allows you to get better results in less time and with fewer resources.
Consider the severity of the problem
Severity means how serious the issue is and how much damage it causes to your site. Classify all the problems by critical, major, and minor and assign a high, medium, or low priority to each issue.
This is where categorizing errors in Website Audit can help. Errors such as 4XX status codes for pages/links/images/files, and pages blocked by robots.txt, for example, are critical and should be prioritized.
You should also consider your niche and specifics when identifying issue severity. Navigation and pagination issues can be more critical on an ecommerce website than on a portfolio website. Or, for instance, it isn’t considered an error when a PPC landing page has no inbound links.
Consider page importance
Pages that sell the most, drive the most organic traffic to your site or inform your clients about your brand, are essential.
Consider the scope of the problem
If the issue affects the entire site rather than individual pages, you can prioritize it. Such global problems weaken the site as a whole, and correcting minor flaws on individual pages won’t help.
Another crucial aspect is an issue occurrence. Errors that occur frequently can be dangerous because they require more than a one-time fix and necessitate a change in some site configurations.
Consider the impact and effort needed
This method prioritizes the errors that are easier and faster to fix. Some corrections can be extremely important, but they can be rather difficult to implement. This method suggests that you grab the low-hanging fruit and fix the tasks requiring less effort but still bring value to your website fast. We call it a quick win.
The impact/effort matrix looks like this:
Keep in mind, however, that if your CMS or other solutions have any plugin, framework, or tool that can quickly solve some of the issues, the distribution of effort can change. You’ll be able to accomplish more laborious tasks faster.
Prioritization requires that all team members participate, especially those who are on the development team. Developers can help you determine how much time and effort it will take to solve a problem.
How to make TA for the development team
Wrongly set tasks lead to unsatisfactory results, so convey all the necessary task information to the development team. This typically applies to large sites, technical companies, and agencies where different teams have to interact and coordinate their workflows.
The more clearly and transparently you set tasks, the easier it is for devs to understand what problems they must solve and the scope of work involved. The team can start work without wasting time mulling over the issues. Poorly set tasks can also lead to stress and tension within the team because they don’t describe the problem and possible solutions to it fully. Irrationally set ones, on the other hand, prioritize issues that don’t bring much value in the first place. As an insult to injury, they often require more effort and money to complete.
Here’s what you need to specify in your technical assignment to the development team. This is a basic template that you can adapt to your needs and to your workflow.
Here’s how it looks in real life:
Depending on your workflow and the scope of your issue, you may also want to add:
- Time estimate. This is the time period with which the task is estimated to be solved.
- Attachments. Attach any resources that can help developers better understand the problem or fix it faster.
- Task dependencies. Some tasks can be connected, allowing you to mark whether your task is waiting for another task to be completed. This is beneficial in collaborative workflows.
A regular technical website audit is essential for anyone with a website who wants to climb to the top of the SERPs and win the hearts of their users. It can help you:
- Identify site weaknesses and other issues that need to be fixed.
- Detect potential problems and fix them before they become more serious.
- Get technical insights into how both search bots and users perceive your website.
- Assess how well your website complies with the latest online requirements.
- Boost your SEO efforts and reach your business goals faster.
All of this, however, is only possible if you use a high-quality tool to check the site. It should be configurable and provide detailed reports on every issue. You should be able to compare audit results and monitor the effectiveness of fixes. It should also be comprehensive and user-friendly.
We designed our Website Audit with all these considerations in mind, and update it regularly to provide accurate information for detected issues. So, without further ado, go to the tool and check any site for errors.
We’d also like to hear from you in the comments section below. Tell us about your website auditing tools and why you chose them.
Perfect work you have done, this site is really cool with great information.
Many thanks for not simply listing issues we need to fix but explaining how to prioritize things. It’s really helpful!
Thanks, Emily! That was the plan: to explain the principles of an efficient website audit. Glad you’ve found it useful.
Thanks for the guide! Very comprehensive and up-to-date. I saw the news about Google launching the Speed report just yesterday, and you already recommend using it. Keep it up!
Thank you for your kind words, Robert!