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How to Complete a Technical SEO Audit in 8 Steps

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How to Complete a Technical SEO Audit in 8 Steps

For someone performing their first technical SEO audit, the results can be both overwhelming and intimidating. Often, you can’t see the wood for the trees and have no idea how to fix things or where to even begin.

After years of working with clients, especially as the head of tech SEO for a U.K. agency, I’ve found technical SEO audits to be a near-daily occurrence. With that, I know how important it is, especially for newer SEOs, to understand what each issue is and why it is important.

Understanding issues found within a technical audit allows you to analyze a site fully and come up with a comprehensive strategy.

In this guide, I am going to walk you through a step-by-step process for a successful tech audit but also explain what each issue is and, perhaps more importantly, where it should lie on your priority list.

Whether it’s to make improvements on your own site or recommendations for your first client, this guide will help you to complete a technical SEO audit successfully and confidently in eight steps.

But first, let’s clarify some basics.

What is a technical SEO audit?

Technical SEO is the core foundation of any website. A technical SEO audit is an imperative part of site maintenance to analyze the technical aspects of your website.

An audit will check if a site is optimized properly for the various search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

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This includes ensuring there are no issues related to crawlability and indexation that prevent search engines from allowing your site to appear on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

An audit involves analyzing all elements of your site to make sure that you have not missed out on anything that could be hindering the optimization process. In many cases, some minor changes can improve your ranking significantly.

Also, an audit can highlight technical problems your website has that you may not be aware of, such as hreflang errors, canonical issues, or mixed content problems.

When should you perform a technical SEO audit?

Generally speaking, I always like to do an initial audit on a new site—whether that is one I just built or one I am seeing for the first time from a client—and then audits on a quarterly basis.

I think it is advisable to get into good habits with regular audits as part of ongoing site maintenance. This is especially if you are working with a site that is continuously publishing new content.

It is also a good idea to perform an SEO audit when you notice that your rankings are stagnant or declining.

What do you need from a client before completing a technical audit?

Even if a client comes to me with goals that are not necessarily “tech SEO focused,” such as link building or creating content, it is important to remember that any technical issue can impede the success of the work we do going forward.

It is always important to assess the technical aspects of the site, offer advice on how to make improvements, and explain how those technical issues may impact the work we intend to do together.

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With that said, if you intend on performing a technical audit on a website that is not your own, at a minimum, you will need access to the Google Search Console and Google Analytics accounts for that site.

How to perform a technical SEO audit in eight steps

For the most part, technical SEO audits are not easy. Unless you have a very small, simple business site that was perfectly built by an expert SEO, you’re likely going to run into some technical issues along the way.

Often, especially with more complex sites, such as those with a large number of pages or those in multiple languages, audits can be like an ever-evolving puzzle that can take days or even weeks to crack.

Regardless of whether you are looking to audit your own small site or a large one for a new client, I’m going to walk you through the eight steps that will help you to identify and fix some of the most common technical issues.

Step 1. Crawl your website

All you need to get started here is to set up a project in Ahrefs’ Site Audit, which you can even access for free as part of Ahrefs Webmaster Tools.

This tool scans your website to check how many URLs there are, how many are indexable, how many are not, and how many have issues.

From this, the audit tool creates an in-depth report on everything it finds to help you identify and fix any issues that are hindering your site’s performance.

Of course, more advanced issues may need further investigation that involves other tools, such as Google Search Console. But our audit tool does a great job at highlighting key issues, especially for beginner SEOs.

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First, to run an audit with Site Audit, you will need to ensure your website is connected to your Ahrefs account as a project. The easiest way to do this is via Google Search Console, although you can verify your ownership by adding a DNS record or HTML file.

Verifying ownership in Ahrefs' Site Audit

Once your ownership is verified, it is a good idea to check the Site Audit settings before running your first crawl. If you have a bigger site, it is always best to increase the crawl speed before you start.

Changing crawl settings in Ahrefs' Site Audit

There are a number of standard settings in place. For a small, personal site, these settings may be fine as they are. However, settings like the maximum number of pages crawled under “Limits” is something you may want to alter for bigger projects.

Setting the maximum number of pages crawled in Ahrefs' Site Audit

Also, if you are looking for in-depth insight on Core Web Vitals (CWV), you may want to add your Google API key here too.

Core Web Vitals settings in Ahrefs' Site Audit

Once happy with the settings, you can run a new crawl under the “Site Audit” tab.
Running a crawl in Ahrefs' Site Audit

Initially, after running the audit, you will be directed to the “Overview” page. This will give you a top-level view of what the tool has found, including the number of indexable vs. non-indexable pages, top issues, and an overall website health score out of 100.

This will give you a quick and easy-to-understand proxy metric to the overall website health.

Health score metric in Ahrefs' Site Audit

From here, you can head over to the “All issues” tab. This breaks down all of the problems the crawler has found, how much of a priority they are to be fixed, and how to fix them.

"All issues" tab in Ahrefs' Site Audit

This report, alongside other tools, can help you to start identifying the issues that may be hindering your performance on the SERPs.

Step 2. Spotting crawlability and indexation issues

If your site has pages that can’t be crawled by search engines, your website may not be indexed correctly, if at all. If your website does not appear in the index, it cannot be found by users.

Ensuring that search bots can crawl your website and collect data from it correctly means search engines can accurately place your site on the SERPs and you can rank for those all-important keywords.

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There are a few things you need to consider when looking for crawlability issues:

  • Indexation errors
  • Robots.txt errors
  • Sitemap issues
  • Optimizing the crawl budget

Identifying indexation issues

Priority: High

Ensuring your pages are indexed is imperative if you want to appear anywhere on Google.

The simplest way to check how your site is indexed is by heading to Google Search Console and checking the Coverage report. Here, you can see exactly which pages are indexed, which pages have warnings, as well as which ones are excluded and why:

Coverage report in Google Search Console

Note that pages will only appear in the search results if they are indexed without any issues.

If your pages are not being indexed, there are a number of issues that may be causing this. We will take a look at the top few below, but you can also check our other guide for a more in-depth walkthrough.

Checking the robots.txt file

Priority: High

The robots.txt file is arguably the most straightforward file on your website. But it is something that people consistently get wrong. Although you may advise search engines on how to crawl your site, it is easy to make errors.

Most search engines, especially Google, like to abide by the rules you set out in the robots.txt file. So if you accidentally tell a search engine not to crawl and/or index certain URLs or even your entire site, that’s what will happen.

This is what the robots.txt file, which tells search engines not to crawl any pages, looks like:

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Disallowing search engines via robots.txt

Often, these instructions are left within the file even after the site goes live, preventing the site from being crawled. This is a rare easy fix that acts as a panacea to your SEO.

You can also check whether a single page is accessible and indexed by typing the URL into the Google Search Console search bar. If it’s not indexed yet and it’s accessible, you can “Request Indexing.”

Requesting indexing in Google Search Console

The Coverage report in Google Search Console can also let you know if you’re blocking certain pages in robots.txt despite them being indexed:
Pages blocked via robots.txt in Google Search Console

Robots meta tags

Priority: High

A robots meta tag is an HTML snippet that tells search engines how to crawl or index a certain page. It’s placed into the <head> section of a webpage and looks like this:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex" />

This noindex is the most common one. And as you’ve guessed, it tells search engines not to index the page. We also often see the following robots meta tag on pages across whole websites:

<meta name="robots" content=”max-snippet:-1, max-image-preview:large, max-video-preview:-1" />

This tells Google to use any of your content freely on its SERPs. The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress adds this by default unless you add noindex or nosnippet directives.

If there are no robots meta tags on the page, search engines consider that as index, follow, meaning that they can index the page and crawl all links on it.

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But noindex actually has a lot of uses:

  • Thin pages with little or no value for the user
  • Pages in the staging environment
  • Admin and thank-you pages
  • Internal search results
  • PPC landing pages
  • Pages about upcoming promotions, contests, or product launches
  • Duplicate content (use canonical tags to suggest the best version for indexing)

But improper use also happens to be a top indexability issue. Using the wrong attribute accidentally can have a detrimental effect on your presence on the SERPs, so remember to use it with care.

Checking the sitemap

Priority: High

An XML sitemap helps Google to navigate all of the important pages on your website. Considering crawlers can’t stop and ask for directions, a sitemap ensures Google has a set of instructions when it comes to crawling and indexing your website.

But much like crawlers can be accidentally blocked via the robots.txt file, pages can be left out of the sitemap, meaning they likely won’t get prioritized for crawling.

Also, by having pages in your sitemap that shouldn’t be there, such as broken pages, you can confuse crawlers and affect your crawl budget (more on that next).

You can check sitemap issues in Site Audit: Site Audit > All issues > Other.

Sitemap issues in Ahrefs' Site Audit

The main thing here is to ensure that all of the important pages that you want to have indexed are within your sitemap and avoid including anything else.

Checking the crawl budget

Priority: High (for large websites)

A crawl budget refers to how many pages and how rapidly a search engine can crawl.

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A variety of things influence the crawl budget. These include the number of resources on the website, as well as how valuable Google deems your indexable pages to be.

Having a big crawl budget does not guarantee that you will rank at the top of the SERPs. But if all of your critical pages are not crawled due to crawl budget concerns, it is possible that those pages may not be indexed.

Your pages are likely being scanned as part of your daily crawl budget if they are popular, receive organic traffic and links, and are well-linked internally across your site.

New pages—as well as those that are not linked internally or externally, e.g., those found on newer sites—may not be crawled as frequently, if at all.

For larger sites with millions of pages or sites that are often updated, crawl budget can be an issue. In general, if you have a large number of pages that aren’t being crawled or updated as frequently as you want, you should think about looking to speed up crawling.

Using the Crawl Stats report in Google Search Console can give you insight into how your site is being crawled and any issues that may have been flagged by the Googlebot.

Crawling insights via Google Search Console

You will also want to look into any flagged crawl statuses like the ones shown here:

Crawl status codes you might see in Google Search Console

Step 3. Checking technical on-page elements

It is important to check your on-page fundamentals. Although many SEOs may tell you that on-page issues like those with meta descriptions aren’t a big deal, I personally think it is part of good SEO housekeeping.

Even Google’s John Mueller previously stated that having multiple H1 tags on a webpage isn’t an issue. However, let’s think about SEO as a points system.

If you and a competitor have sites that stand shoulder to shoulder on the SERP, then even the most basic of issues could be the catalyst that determines who ranks at the top. So in my opinion, even the most basic of housekeeping issues should be addressed.

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So let’s take a look at the following:

  • Page titles and title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • Canonical tags
  • Hreflang tags
  • Structured data

Page titles and title tags

Priority: Medium

Title tags have a lot more value than most people give them credit for. Their job is to let Google and site visitors know what a webpage is about—like this:

Title tag in Google search

Here’s what it looks like in raw HTML format:

<title>How to Craft the Perfect SEO Title Tag (Our 4-Step Process)</title>

In recent years, title tags have sparked a lot of debate in the SEO world. Google, it turns out, is likely to modify your title tag if it doesn’t like it.

Google rewrites around a third of title tags

One of the biggest reasons Google rewrites title tags is that they are simply too long. This is one issue that is highlighted within Site Audit.

Title tag rewrites highlighted in Ahrefs' Site Audit

In general, it is good practice to ensure all of your pages have title tags, none of which are longer than 60 characters.

Meta descriptions

Priority: Low

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A meta description is an HTML attribute that describes the contents of a page. It may be displayed as a snippet under the title tag in the search results to give further context.

Title tag in Google search

More visitors will click on your website in the search results if it has a captivating meta description. Even though Google only provides meta descriptions 37% of the time, it is still important to ensure your most important pages have great ones.

You can find out if any meta descriptions are missing, as well as if they are too long or too short.

Title tag rewrites highlighted in Ahrefs' Site Audit

But writing meta descriptions is more than just filling a space. It’s about enticing potential site visitors.

Check canonical tags

Priority: High

A canonical tag (rel=“canonical”) specifies the primary version for duplicate or near-duplicate pages. To put it another way, if you have about the same content available under several URLs, you should be using canonical tags to designate which version is the primary and should be indexed.

How canonicalization works

Canonical tags are an important part of SEO, mainly because Google doesn’t like duplicate content. Also, using canonical tags incorrectly (or not at all) can seriously affect your crawl budget.

If spiders are wasting their time crawling duplicate pages, it can mean that valuable pages are being missed.

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You can find duplicate content issues in Site Audit: Site Audit > Reports > Duplicates > Issues.

Duplicate pages without canonical via Ahrefs' Site Audit

International SEO: hreflang tags

Priority: High

Although hreflang is seemingly yet another simple HTML tag, it is possibly the most complex SEO element to get your head around.

The hreflang tag is imperative for sites in multiple languages. If you have many versions of the same page in a different language or target different parts of the world—for example, one version in English for the U.S. and one version in French for France—you need hreflang tags.

Translating a website is time consuming and costly—because you’ll need to put in effort and ensure all versions show up in the relevant search results. But it does give a better user experience by catering to different users who consume content in different languages.

Plus, as clusters of multiple-language pages share each other’s ranking signals, using hreflang tags correctly can have a direct impact as a ranking factor. This is alluded to by Gary Illyes from Google in this video.

You can find hreflang tag issues in Site Audit under localization: Site Audit > All issues > Localization.

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Localization issues via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Structured data

Priority: High

Structured data, often referred to as schema markup, has a number of valuable uses in SEO.

Most prominently, structured data is used to help get rich results or features in the Knowledge Panel. Here’s a great example: When working with recipes, more details are given about each result, such as the rating.

Recipe results with structured data

You also get a feature in the Knowledge Panel that shows what a chocolate chip cookie is (along with some nutritional information):

Knowledge card in Google search

Because structured data helps Google better understand not only your website but also detailed information such as authors, structured data can help both semantic search and improve expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, aka E-A-T.

Nowadays, JSON-LD is the preferred format for structured data, so keep it that way if possible. But you can also encounter Microdata and RDFa.

As part of your technical audit, you should be testing your structured data. A great tool for this is the Classy Schema testing tool.

Schema markup testing tool

You can also check your eligibility for rich results with Google’s Rich Results Test.
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Google's Rich Results testing tool

Step 4. Identifying image issues

Image optimization is often overlooked when it comes to SEO. However, image optimization has a number of benefits that include:

  • Improved load speed.
  • More traffic you can get from Google Images.
  • More engaging user experience.
  • Improved accessibility.

Image issues can be found in the main audit report: Site Audit > Reports > Images.

Image issues via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Broken images

Priority: High

Broken images cannot be displayed on your website. This makes for a bad user experience in general but can also look spammy, giving visitors the impression that the site is not well maintained and professional.

This can be especially problematic for anyone who monetizes their website, as it can make the website seem less trustworthy.

Image file size too large

Priority: High

Large images on your website can seriously impact your site speed and performance. Ideally, you want to display images in the smallest possible size and in an appropriate format, such as WebP.

The best option is to optimize the image file size before uploading the image to your website. Tools like TinyJPG can optimize your images before they’re added to your site.

If you are looking to optimize existing images, there are tools available, especially for more popular content management systems (CMSs) like WordPress. Plugins such as Imagify or WP-Optimize are great examples.

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HTTPS page links to HTTP image

Priority: Medium

HTTPS pages that link to HTTP images cause what is called “mixed content issues.” This means that a page is loaded securely via HTTPS. But a resource it links to, such as an image or video, is on an insecure HTTP connection.

Mixed content is a security issue. For those who monetize sites with display ads, it can even prevent ad providers from allowing ads on your site. It also degrades the user experience of your website.

By default, certain browsers restrict unsafe resource requests. If your page relies on these vulnerable resources, it may not function correctly if they are banned.

Missing alt text

Priority: Low

Alt text, or alternative text, describes an image on a website. It is an incredibly important part of image optimization, as it improves accessibility on your website for millions of people throughout the world who are visually impaired.

Often, those with a visual impairment use screen readers, which convert images into audio. Essentially, this is describing the image to the site visitor. Properly optimized alt text allows screen readers to inform site users with visual impairments exactly what they are seeing.

Alt text can also serve as anchor text for image links, help you to rank on Google Images, and improve topical relevance.

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Step 5. Analyzing internal links

When most people think of “links” for SEO, they think about backlinks. How to build them, how many they should have, and so on.

What many people don’t realize is the sheer importance of internal linking. In fact, internal links are like the jelly to backlinks’ peanut butter. Can you have one without the other? Sure. Are they always better together? You bet!

Not only do internal links help your external link building efforts, but they also make for a better website experience for both search engines and users.

The proper siloing of topics using internal linking creates an easy-to-understand topical roadmap for everyone who comes across your site. This has a number of benefits:

  • Creates relevancy for keywords
  • Helps ensure all content is crawled
  • Makes it easy for visitors to find relevant content or products

Example of siloing on fitness website

Of course, when done right, all of this makes sense. But internal links should be audited when you first get your hands on a site because things may not be as orderly as you’ll want.

4xx status codes

Priority: High

Go to Site Audit > Internal pages > Issues tab > 4XX page.

4XX page errors via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Here, you can see all of your site’s broken internal pages.
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These are problematic because they waste “link equity” and provide users with a negative experience.

Here are a few options for dealing with these issues:

  • Bring back the broken page at the same address (if deleted by accident)
  • Redirect the broken page to a more appropriate location; all internal links referring to it should be updated or removed

Orphan pages

Priority: High

Go to Site Audit > Links > Issues tab > Orphan page (has no incoming internal links).

Orphan page issues via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Here, we highlight pages that have zero internal links pointing to them.

There are two reasons why indexable pages should not be orphaned:

  • Internal links will not pass PageRank because there are none.
  • They won’t be found by Google (unless you upload your sitemap through Google Search Console or there are backlinks from several other websites’ crawled pages, they won’t be seen).

If your website has multiple orphaned pages, filter the list from high to low for organic traffic. If internal links are added to orphaned pages still receiving organic traffic, they’ll certainly gain far more traffic.

Step 6. Checking external links

External links are hyperlinks within your pages that link to another domain. That means all of your backlinks—the links to your website from another one—are someone else’s external links.

See how the magic of the internet is invisibly woven together? *mind-blown emoji*

External links are often used to back up sources in the form of citations. For example, if I am writing a blog post and discussing metrics from a study, I’ll externally link to where I found that authoritative source.

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Linking to credible sources makes your own website more credible to both visitors and search engines. This is because you show that your information is backed up with sound research.

Here’s what John said about external links:

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SEO

A Guide To Social Media Algorithms & How They Work

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A Guide To Social Media Algorithms & How They Work

Why do so many marketers keep asking, “How do social media algorithms work?” Because the algorithms for the major platforms can change quickly.

But, marketers should also keep asking, “Which social media platforms have the most users?” Because that data can change frequently, as well.

So, here are the latest answers to the first question about the algorithms for the eight platforms that you should be considering today.

Spoiler alert: This update contains some surprising shifts in the latest data on monthly unique visitors, monthly visits, and monthly average visit duration from SimilarWeb.

How Does The YouTube Algorithm Work?

YouTube got 1.953 billion unique visitors worldwide in May 2022. The platform received 35.083 billion monthly visits that month with an average visit duration of 21:41.

Now, some social media marketers may be shocked, shocked to find YouTube ranking ahead of Facebook.

But, SimilarWeb’s data above is only for desktop and mobile web channels. It doesn’t include data for connected TVs, which became the fastest-growing screen among YouTube viewers in 2020.

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This makes it imperative to know how YouTube’s algorithm works.

YouTube’s algorithm tries to match each viewer to the videos they’re most likely to watch and enjoy. But, with over 500 hours of video content uploaded every minute, this is a Herculean task.

YouTube’s search and discovery systems tackle this challenge by paying close attention to:

  • What viewers watch.
  • What they don’t watch.
  • How much time do they spend watching?
  • What do they share and like?

Next, you need to learn that YouTube has multiple algorithms, including ones for:

  • YouTube Search: Videos are ranked based on how well titles, descriptions, and video content match the viewer’s search and which videos get the most engagement for a search.
  • Up Next: The ranking of suggested videos is based on machine learning’s understanding of which ones viewers are most likely to watch next. These videos are often related to the video a viewer is watching, but they can also be personalized based on the viewer’s watch history.
  • Your homepage: Videos are selected based on how often viewers watch a channel or topic, how well similar videos have interested and satisfied similar viewers, and how many times YouTube has already shown each video to a viewer.
  • YouTube Shorts: YouTube wants both short and long videos to succeed. So, relative watch time is generally more important for short videos, while absolute watch time is generally more important for longer videos.

So, what should you do next?

First, read my column, How To Optimize YouTube Videos To Help Ukraine, which provides tips on keyword research, title optimization, writing descriptions, custom thumbnails, and other video SEO best practices.

Next, read Jon Clark’s article, 13 Key Elements Of Successful YouTube Videos. He focuses on how to make a great video.

Why is that important? Because YouTube’s search and discovery system “finds” videos for each viewer and their varying interests in order to get them to watch more videos that they’ll enjoy so they’ll come back to YouTube regularly.

How Does The Facebook Algorithm Work?

Facebook got only 1.620 billion unique visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 19.739 billion visits that month with an average session duration of 10:05.

Now, Facebook’s unique visitors started dipping worldwide in February 2022.

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But, as you can see in the chart below, there was a substantial drop in unique visitors in Russia in early March, after Russia blocked Facebook in an effort to control the spread of information on the invasion of Ukraine.

Screenshot courtesy of Similarweb, June 2022

This had a negative impact on Facebook’s total unique visitors worldwide, which were already losing momentum. Nevertheless, the platform is still too big to ignore.

So, how does Facebook’s algorithm work today?

Well, we knew how Facebook’s News Feed ranking process worked in December 2021 when Anna Stepanov, Head of Facebook App Integrity, wrote a post that said:

“News Feed uses personalized ranking, which takes into account thousands of unique signals to understand what’s most meaningful to you. Our aim isn’t to keep you scrolling on Facebook for hours on end, but to give you an enjoyable experience that you want to return to.”

And she summarized half a dozen of the biggest changes Facebook had made in 2021 to give users more control over, and insight into, how content appears in their News Feed.

This included publishing a new series of Widely Viewed Content Reports to share what content is seen by the most people in News Feed in the U.S.

Ironically, Facebook’s latest Widely Viewed Content Report showed the top four domains in Q4 2021:

  • youtube.com (168.1 million content viewers).
  • media1.tenor.co (118.4 million).
  • gofundme.com (112.4 million).
  • tiktok.com (105.0 million).

But, then in February 2022, Matt G. Southern reported Facebook Shifts Focus To Short-Form Video After Stock Plunge. And on June 16, 2022, Southern reported Facebook To Restructure Main Feed Around Video Content.

So, what should you do next? First, read Southern’s stories and learn why Tom Alison, head of Facebook, plans to turn its main feed into a “discovery engine” for video content.

According to Alison, the main tab in the Facebook app will become a mix of Stories and Reels at the top, followed by posts that its discovery engine will recommend from across both Facebook and Instagram.

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Next, follow Southern’s expert, authoritative, and trustworthy advice:

“The best way to prepare for this change, if Facebook is a priority for you and your business, is to get comfortable with creating and publishing more short form video. While Facebook will continue to surface text and photo posts, they’ll be ancillary to the main attractions of Reels and Stories.”

How Does The Instagram Algorithm Work?

Instagram got 1.050 billion unique visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 6.497 billion visits that month with an average session duration of 07:51.

Russia has also banned Instagram, but the growth in unique visitors from other countries around the world has offset that.

So, you still need to know how Instagram’s algorithms work.

In June 2021, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, wrote a post entitled, Shedding More Light On How Instagram Works. He revealed:

“Instagram doesn’t have one algorithm that oversees what people do and don’t see on the app. We use a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose.”

For the Feed and Stories, the key ranking signals are:

  • Information about the post: How popular a post is, when it was posted, how long it is, if it’s a video, and if it’s attached to a location.
  • Information about the person who posted: How many times users have interacted with that person in the past few weeks.
  • User activity: What a user might be interested in and how many posts they’ve liked.
  • User history of interacting with someone: How interested a user is in seeing posts from a particular person.

For Explore, the key ranking signals are:

  • Information about the post: How popular a post seems to be as well as how many and how quickly other people are liking, commenting, sharing, and saving a post.
  • User history of interacting with someone: (See above.)
  • User activity: What posts a user has liked, saved, or commented on as well as how they’ve interacted with posts in Explore in the past.
  • Information about the person who posted: (See above.)

For Reels, the key ranking signals are:

  • User activity: Which Reels a user has liked, commented on, and engaged with recently.
  • User history of interacting with someone: (See above.)
  • Information about the reel: The audio track, video data such as pixels and whole frames, as well as popularity.
  • Information about the person who posted: (See above.)

So, each part of the app uses similar ranking signals, but their order of importance varies. Mosseri explained:

“People tend to look for their closest friends in Stories, but they want to discover something entirely new in Explore. We rank things differently in different parts of the app, based on how people use them.”

For more tips and advice, read the article by Shelley Walsh entitled, 22 Ways To Get More Instagram Followers Right Now. Then, read Amanda DiSilvestro’s article, How To Use Instagram Reels For Business.

How Does The Twitter Algorithm Work?

Twitter got 979 million unique visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 7.056 billion visits that month with an average session duration of 10.39.

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This data does not screen for fake or spam accounts. Nevertheless, it’s worth investing the time and effort to keep up with how Twitter’s algorithm works.

Like most social media platforms, Twitter has multiple algorithms.

Twitter says its “algorithmic Home timeline displays a stream of Tweets from accounts you have chosen to follow on Twitter, as well as recommendations of other content we think you might be interested in based on accounts you interact with frequently, Tweets you engage with, and more.”

If users want to, they can click on the star symbol to see the latest Tweets as they happen. But, few people choose to drink water from a firehose.

If they want to, users can click on “Explore” and see Trending tweets or ones about COVID-19, News, Sports, and Entertainment.

If users want to, they can click on “More” to see the Topics that Twitter thinks they’re interested in.

Like most social media platforms, Twitter’s algorithms use machine learning to sort content based on different ranking signals.

And it’s worth noting that Twitter is currently involved in analyzing the results of its algorithms as part of its “responsible machine learning initiative.”

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Here’s what Twitter has said publicly about its Home timeline, Trends, and Topics ranking signals:

Relevance:

  • ​​Users’ previous actions on Twitter, like their own Tweets and Tweets they’ve engaged with.
  • Accounts they often engage with.
  • Topics they follow and engage with most.
  • The number of Tweets related to a topic.
  • For Trends: their location.

Engagement:

  • For Tweets: “How popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with [the Tweet].”
  • For Trends: “The number of Tweets related to the Trend.”
  • For Topics: “How much people are Tweeting, Retweeting, replying, and liking Tweets about that Topic.”

Recency:

  • For Trends: “Topics that are popular now, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis.”

Rich Media:

  • The type of media the Tweet includes like an image, video, GIF, and polls.

For more advice and tips, read Lisa Buyer’s article, 8 Terrific Tips To Optimize A Twitter Business Or Brand Profile. Then, read the article by Julia McCoy entitled, How To Be A Top Tweeter: 10 Tips That Will Get Your Tweets Noticed.

How Does The TikTok Algorithm Work?

TikTok got 690 million monthly visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 1.766 billion visits that month with an average session duration of 03:48.

This data doesn’t include Douyin.com, which is counted separately. But, as the chart below illustrates, TikTok.com gets about 98% of the unique visitors worldwide for both of the ByteDance apps.

TikTok.com gets about 98% of the unique visitors worldwideScreenshot courtesy of Similarweb, June 2022

So, you should probably learn how TikTok’s algorithm works ASAP.

In June 2020, TikTok revealed how its recommendation system selected videos in a post entitled, How TikTok recommends videos #ForYou.

Little has fundamentally changed since then, except the U.S. government is no longer trying to ban the social media platform.

TikTok’s For You feed presents a stream of videos curated to each user’s interests, making it easy for a user to find content and creators they love.

In other words, there isn’t one For You feed for over one billion monthly active TikTok users. There are a billion For You feeds tailored to what each user watches, likes, and shares.

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TikTok added, “This feed is powered by a recommendation system that delivers content to each user that is likely to be of interest to that particular user.”

And recommendations are based on a number of factors, including:

  • User interactions such as the videos they like or share, accounts they follow, comments they post, and content they create.
  • Video information, which might include details like captions, sounds, and hashtags.
  • Device and account settings like their language preference, country setting, and device type.

TikTok also revealed:

“All these factors are processed by our recommendation system and weighted based on their value to a user. A strong indicator of interest, such as whether a user finishes watching a longer video from beginning to end, would receive greater weight than a weak indicator, such as whether the video’s viewer and creator are both in the same country.

Videos are then ranked to determine the likelihood of a user’s interest in a piece of content, and delivered to each unique For You feed.”

On the other hand, TikTok said:

“While a video is likely to receive more views if posted by an account that has more followers, by virtue of that account having built up a larger follower base, neither follower count nor whether the account has had previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the recommendation system.”

So, what should you do next? First, read Miranda Miller’s article, 40+ TikTok Stats Digital Marketers Need To Know. Then, read my column, How TikTok’s Search Algorithms Power Content Discovery.

How Does The Pinterest Algorithm Work?

Pinterest got 409 million unique visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 945 million visits that month with an average session duration of 05:29.

With Instagram declaring it is “no longer just a square photo-sharing app,” this is the time to learn how Pinterest’s algorithm works.

The ranking factors on Pinterest relate more to engagement metrics and social shares, but it also involves keywords.

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And Pinterest autocomplete provides ideas by automatically suggesting semantically related modifiers to a core keyword.

Pinterest’s search feature then curates a user’s “feed” based on what they’re searching for and how those key terms are used in the Pins being shared by content creators.

Pinterest also categorizes and sub-categorizes topics to make it easy to find keywords for your particular niche.

To optimize your Pins:

  • Use long images: The optimal Pin size is 1,000 by 1,500 px or a ratio of 2:3.
  • Use eye-catching colors: Catch users’ attention and stand out with high-contrast colors.
  • Use enticing, keyword-rich titles: Entice users to click through to your content.
  • Use detailed descriptions: Include your target keywords in your descriptions.

Then, optimize your boards. Boards provide a great opportunity to tell Pinterest’s search engine how you categorize your products and/or organize your content, which will only aid visibility.

Finally, aim for engagement, which can increase your Pin’s (and your profile’s) visibility in search, increasing your traffic.

For additional information and advice, read Southern’s story, Pinterest Updates Algorithm To Surface More Content Types. Then, read Jessica Foster’s article, 12 Pinterest SEO Tips For High-Traffic Success.

How Does The LinkedIn Algorithm Work?

LinkedIn got 306 million unique visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 1.479 billion visits that month with an average session duration of 07:32.

So, social media marketers – especially ones at B2B organizations – need to know how LinkedIn’s algorithm works.

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In June 2019, Pete Davies, Senior Director of Product Management at LinkedIn, wrote a post entitled, What’s in your LinkedIn Feed: People You Know, Talking about Things You Care About. He explained, “The more valuable the conversation, the higher in your feed the post will be.”

How does LinkedIn’s algorithm know if a conversation is valuable? It uses the following framework:

  • People you know: LinkedIn’s algorithm looks at a user’s connections and prioritizes who they’ve interacted with directly through comments and reactions; the user’s implicit interests and experiences based on information in their profile; explicit signals, such as who a user works with; as well as who would benefit from hearing from the user.
  • Talking about: A lot of sophistication goes into understanding a good conversation. As a rule of thumb, better conversations are authentic and have a constructive back and forth.
  • Things you care about: LinkedIn’s algorithm also looks at whether the content and the conversation are relevant and interesting to a user. It considers a number of signals, including joining groups and following hashtags, people, and pages.

So, what should you do next? First, read Jessica Foster’s article, How The LinkedIn Algorithm Works & Optimizing For It. Then, read Matt G. Southern’s article, LinkedIn Debunks Algorithm Myths In New Video Series.

How Does The Reddit Algorithm Work?

Reddit got 237 million unique visitors worldwide in May. The platform received 1.669 billion visits that month with an average session duration of 09:59.

With Facebook setting its sights on video to regain its momentum, this is a good time to learn how Reddit’s algorithm works.

In June 2021, the official blog for Reddit posted Evolving the Best Sort for Reddit’s Home Feed. It provided insights into how Reddit determines which relevant posts to show users.

The post revealed that:

“Reddit’s systems build a list of potential candidate posts from multiple sources, pass the posts through multiple filtering steps, then rank the posts according to the specified sorting method. Over the years, we’ve built many options to choose from when it comes to sorting your Home feed.”

Here’s how each sort option recommends content:

  • “Hot” ranks using votes and post age.
  • “New” displays the most recently published posts.
  • “Top” shows users the highest vote count posts from a specified time range.
  • “Controversial” shows posts with both high count upvotes and downvotes.
  • “Rising” populates posts with lots of recent votes and comments.
  • ‘Best” uses machine learning algorithms to personalize the order in which users see posts.

For more tips and information, read the article by Brent Csutoras entitled, A Beginner’s Guide To Reddit: How To Get Started & Be Successful. Then, read Southern’s story, Reddit Makes Comments Searchable.

Why Should You Keep Asking Questions?

The latest data from SimilarWeb indicates that you should continue asking “Which social media platforms have the most users?” as well as “How do social media algorithms work?”

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Things change too quickly and frequently in this particular arena for anyone to think that past performance is even remotely indicative of future results.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

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