The technical side of SEO is something that I always find interesting and am always learning more and more about. Recently as SEO has developed, following Google’s Algorithmic developments, the technical side of SEO has become a much more important area of focus. You can tick all the On-Page SEO Checklist boxes and have the most natural and authoritative link profile but compromising on the technical areas of your sites SEO strategy can render all that effort useless.
With technical SEO, there are lots of different areas of a site that should be reviewed and fixed as part of an initial technical SEO audit and as part of your on-going site optimization.
In this post I will share the tools I use the most when performing a typical technical SEO audit and why I use them. There are a lot of tools out there and there are some SEOs prefer to use alternatives to the ones I’m going to list due to personal choice. Sometimes using these tools you may find other, more hidden technical issues that can lead you down the technical SEO rabbit hole in which you may need a whole bunch of other tools to identify and fix them.
Screaming Frog is a brilliant tool that I use almost every day and I expect anyone that has downloaded it is probably the same. It allows you to take a domain and crawl through its pages in the same way a search engine does. It crawls through the pages on the site and pulls through nearly everything you need to see that’s pertinent to its SEO performance into the software. Its great for On-Page SEO too!
From a technical SEO audit point of view, you can then highlight any areas of the site that could be an issue such as incorrect canonicalization (page and domain level), meta robots errors, internal redirects and duplicated pages on different URLs amongst much more. If you aren’t using Screaming Frog for technical SEO audits, then start using it!
The free version is limited to 500 pages which is fine for small sites and a basic license isn’t that expensive per year for larger sites. Trust me, it’ll pay for itself in saved time in identifying and resolving site issues.
ISS SEO Toolkit
In a similar way to Screaming Frog this tool, developed by IIS (the webserver type created by Microsoft), also crawls a site from your desktop and creates a report on the site. Unlike Screaming Frog the IIS SEO Toolkit provides the user with a breakdown of the sites potential issues and suggests a remedy for them.
It does take more initial setup than Screaming Frog prior to crawling the site and depending on your level of understanding the reporting can be a little overwhelming at times, especially when you export everything to a CSV! Its free so I recommend giving it a go and seeing what you find that you hadn’t already uncovered.
SEMrush Site Audit
If you are a SEMrush user, I’m sure you have heard of the SEO site audit tool and how good it can be. If you aren’t a user I honestly recommend you give it a go! It crawls a domain from the web browser and creates an online report to show where there are potential issues and shows them in an easy to read format with export options for offline analysis and reporting. Personally my favourite feature of the tool is the historical and comparative sections to it. You can then easily see whether changes to the site have had a positive or negative effect on its SEO potential.
I have found it particularly useful in spotting when someone has made unexpected changes to a site (often with good reason) that can have negative SEO consequences. You can easily show the audit reports change and then develop a way to resolve it without necessarily undoing the change itself.
Pingdom DNS Check
Incorrectly set up DNS servers can cause downtime and crawl errors. The tool I always use to check a sites DNS health is the Pingdom Tools DNS tester. It checks over every level of a sites DNS and reports back with any warnings or errors in its setup. With this tool you can quickly identify anything at DNS level that would potentially cause site downtime, crawl errors and usability problems. It takes a few moments to check and can save a lot of stress later on if anything happens to the site.
Again, in a similar way to the DNS check this tool is easy to use and can help to identify any areas of SEO concern. Rather than looking at a sites DNS, it looks at the architecture of a domain and reports on how it's structured. You get information on the type of server, operating system, the analytics suite used its CMS and even what plugins (if any) are installed and much more.
This is useful because in some cases the things that make up the site can be known to cause issues with SEO. Knowing them in advance can offer the opportunity to change them or, if possible, mitigate any issues they may cause. Just like the DNS tester it can save a lot of headaches in the future if you know what might be the cause of any problems as well as giving you the opportunity to proactively resolve them.
This is a must use tool in your technical SEO audit arsenal as site speed really does matter. A faster site means more of a site can be crawled, it keeps users happy and it can help improve rankings. This free online tool checks over a page and suggests areas that can be improved to speed up page load times. Some may be on-page site speed updates and others may be server level site speed changes that if implemented can have a real impact on a site.
The tool also has a great waterfall visual that helps to show which elements are causing slow load times as well as a chart plotting the history of the sites speed (if you use it a few times).
Google Webmaster Tools
When completing a technical audit I use the information provided in GWMTs to identify crawl errors, review indexed pages, any structured data errors, sitemap status and any blocked resources amongst a few others.
Reverse IP Lookup
This is a good little check to make when you are preforming a technical audit. Checking what other domains are on the same IP address helps to identify any potentially ‘spammy’ looking domains you share a server with. There is no guarantee that a spammy site on the same server will cause you any negative effects but there is a chance that Google may associate the sites.
This check can either help to understand any risk or influence any decisions to move to a different server.
Bonus Tool: Your Brain
Yes, your own brain is the best tool you can use when doing any SEO work, especially technical SEO! The tools above are great at finding details and in doing bulk checks but that shouldn’t be a substitute for doing some thinking for yourself. You’d be surprised at what you can find and fix with a manual review of a site and its structure, just be careful that you don’t get go too deep down the technical SEO rabbit hole!