‍Minimum Viable Technical SEO Audit

December 20, 2021
Michael Taylor
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This post is one of a series on my content production system, developed over 10 years and designed to scale content end-to-end in 6 months as an acquisition channel.

Here are the other posts in the series:

  1. Why the winner takes all in Content Marketing
  2. What everyone gets wrong about Content Strategy
  3. Building Your Keyword Universe
  4. Minimum Viable Technical SEO Audit (this post)
  5. Recruiting good Freelance Writers
  6. How to write blog content at scale
  7. Growth engineering for SEO

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Now you have keywords to target, you want to make sure your site is healthy enough to rank. Many have tried to reverse engineer Google, but you don’t have to be that smart — just give them what they want! Your site needs to be visible to the search engine crawlers, have intentionally thought through architecture and structured metadata: if you have these three things you’ll be fine. The underlying technology of your site is the base on which you build relevance (content) and authority (links), so it’s the most important pillar to get right.

A. Visibility

Google needs to be able to see your website, and they typically like to read static HTML. Add a sitemap with all of your pages on it, so Google knows where to look. Turn off JavaScript or install Google Search Console then look to see what the crawler sees. Also check your core web vitals: this is Google giving you a big hint as to what’s wrong with your website load speed and other technical factors. Google is optimizing to finding their users’ answers as quickly as possible, so the faster your page loads, the more they’ll refer you.

B. Architecture

Every page should have a single job to do, and there should be no duplicate content. As a general rule try and rank for one keyword per page, and have that keyword as close as possible to the root domain of your URL (site.com/key-word). Think about how you want to link between pages, particularly in the header and footer navigation: this is where Google looks for clues as to what you think is important. You’ll run into conflicts: there’s limited real-estate and you’ll have to decide what pages are more important than others. Think primarily about the user experience: what’s good for the user is often good for Google.

C. Metadata

Google gives you all sorts of tools for adding structured data to your website, and it’s generally wise to make their job easier by doing so. The most important are the meta title and meta description, because that’s the copy that shows on the search results page when you rank for a term. The H1 and other header tags are also key, because it helps Google understand the topics covered, and is correlated with ranking.

 It’s also helpful to add alt tags to images, because Google Image Search is a powerhouse in its own right. Finally add social graph metadata, like og:image tags, because they’ll help make the page more likely to attract clicks when shared on social. There are other ranking factors, and most SEO tools have technical audits you can run, but these are the main ones to cover off.

If you struggle to get developer time, or can’t easily push new releases to your website, it’s worth experimenting with Google Tag Manager (GTM). Google executes JavaScript now, so it’s possible to do a lot of SEO work in GTM, without going through the tech team. For example adding schema markup, optimizing title tags, and even running split tests and other experiments.

September 16, 2020

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