Now that the full extent of the market rout in 2022 is coming into view, some investors are reassessing their strategies and, in some cases, starting to consider dividend stocks and dividend-focused funds.
Record dividend payments in 2022
It’s no secret that 2022 was a bleak year for stock returns. However, companies in the S&P 500 paid out a record $565 billion in dividends throughout the year. Data from S&P Dow Jones Indices reveals that dividend payouts from the index grew an impressive 10% year over year.
In a press release in January, analyst Howard Silverblatt of S&P Dow Jones Indices said 2023 should bring another record year for dividend payouts—even in the event of a “full recession.” He expects rising interest rates and bond yields to “exert upward pressure on dividend payouts,” adding that competition for income will increase.
Of course, dividends aren’t the only way company managements incentivize shareholders to own their shares. Buybacks are another popular strategy, although some fund managers prefer dividends over buybacks for several reasons. In fact, investors who are considering buying into a company because of share buybacks should watch for a red flag.
Former PIMCO portfolio manager Austin Graff of Opal Capital, which just launched in 2022, warned that while many tech companies are buying back shares, they’re not reducing their share counts because they’re handing out stock-based compensation to executives and key employees — and issuing new shares to do it. In some cases, these companies are increasing their share counts even though they’re repurchasing shares.
A moral contract
Graff also prefers dividends because they act as a “moral contract” with management.
“For management to return capital to shareholders, it’s very public,” he added. “What companies are paying every quarter or year, they’re creating a moral contract to keep that up, or their stock faces negative ramifications. But they do buybacks when they want to, and there are negative consequences to buying back stocks at highs, not lows. It’s the opposite of what we would want to do with our own money.”
Warren Buffett and other high-profile investors speak very highly of dividend stocks. He added that if management teams did repurchase their shares at lows rather than highs, it would be great, but that’s not something most companies end up doing.
While dividends are anti-dilutive, many tech companies are in unique situations with heavy stock-based compensation. As a result, their stocks have declined as such companies lay off significant numbers of workers.
“Think of what that means,” Graff explained. “If they pay X dollars, and their stock’s at $100, they issue fewer stocks to that employee than if they’re paying X dollars and the stock is at $50. If the stock goes down, it creates more dilution for stock-based compensation than what was experienced at higher stock prices.”
How Warren Buffett rakes in billions on dividend stocks
Warren Buffett also likes dividend stocks, and it’s easy to see why. In fact, dividend stocks are one of the reasons the legendary value investor outperformed in 2022. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is expected to generate over $6 billion in dividend income in the next 12 months.
Nearly half of Berkshire’s dividend income is estimated to come from only three stocks: Chevron CVX , Occidental Petroleum OXY and Bank of America BAC . Other top dividend payers for Berkshire include Apple AAPL and Coca-Cola KO .
Aside from Graff and Buffett, others started to see the value in dividend stocks in 2022. According to MorningstarMORN , investor interest in dividend-focused funds has jumped after the robust performance put up by dividend-paying names last year. Monthly net sales of the 128 U.S. equity funds with “dividend” in their names have jumped since the fall of 2021, while sales of those without “dividend” in their name have dropped.
Morningstar reported that dividend funds averaged a loss of 6.68% in 2022, versus the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index’s 19.6% plunge, which was similar to the average loss of other U.S. equity funds that don’t focus on dividends. One reason dividend funds performed better in 2022 is the lack of technology exposure.
Another reason is valuation. Last year, investors started to refocus their attention on valuations and multiples. Morningstar revealed that the price multiples of the companies that dividend funds tend to own are below the stock index average.
Protecting their dividends
At the end of the day, fund managers aren’t the only ones with a preference for dividends over buybacks. When the going gets tough, corporate managements have demonstrated a preference for protecting their dividend payments at all costs, meanwhile sacrificing their share repurchases to ensure their ability to keep paying their dividend.
S&P Dow Jones Indices reported that buybacks reached a new record in the first quarter of 2022 at $281 billion but declined in the second quarter to $220 billion and in the third to $211 billion.
While share buybacks ticked higher in the fourth quarter, Silverblatt said it may have been because companies accelerated their purchases to avoid the new 1% buyback tax that went into effect this year. In fact, that new 1% tax is one reason some fund managers prefer dividends over buybacks.
On one hand, a 1% tax isn’t much, but on the other, once a tax is in place, it creates the possibility of increasing that tax over time.
Holding more cash can be a tactical decision as managers wait for deals.In a volatile year for stocks, equity fund managers are increasingly sticking with cash. Of the 415 U.S. equity funds covered by Morningstar, 63% have increased their cash allocation since the end of last year. In July 2022, equity funds reported their highest average cash level since March 2020, and before that, since February 2016.
Managers may be responding to a volatile market that has sent major stock indexes down 10% or more this year. One of the largest mutual funds has increased its cash stake the quickest. The $220 billion American Funds Growth Fund of America (AGTHX) increased its cash allocation from 3.3% of the portfolio at the end of 2021 to 9.5% as of June 30.
Its current level is its highest since June 2010. Morningstar analyst Stephen Welch writes that the “fund’s cash stake has typically been less than 7% of assets the past five years but has risen to roughly 15% during periods of market stress.” Market uncertainty may be causing managers to keep cash on the side more than before, he says.
The average U.S. equity fund held 2.84% of its portfolio in cash as of July 31, according to Morningstar data, up from 1.29% at the end of 2021. This figure hovered around 1.87% the past five years, most dramatically spiking in March 2020, to 3.08%.
Holding cash can be a benefit when markets are going down, but keeping cash on the sidelines can be a burden on performance when markets are rising unless managers are effective at putting it to work, says Tony Thomas, associate director of equity strategies for Morningstar.
Holding more cash can be a tactical decision as some managers like to wait for good deals, though both redemptions and inflows also can affect a fund’s cash level, Thomas adds. Among funds that held the largest cash stakes at the beginning of the year, year-to-date performance is mixed.
Royce Small-Cap Special Equity (RYSEX) held 15.4% of its portfolio in cash at the start of the year. Its large cash stake seems to have had a positive effect on the fund this year, along with the industrials and communication-services sectors, according to Morningstar Direct. The fund was down only 5.71% year to date through July compared with the average small-value fund’s 7.74% drop.
However, as stocks have rallied the past four weeks, it has lagged and now ranks in the 64th percentile year to date. Managers have continued to put more cash on the sidelines, allocating another 4% of the fund to cash as of June 30. Thomas writes that the “managers will allow cash to build when they can’t find enough ideas that meet their stringent quality and valuation standards.”
For AMG Yacktman (YACKX), it wasn’t the first time the managers turned to cash, but its sizable cash stake of 15.3% hasn’t prevented the fund from dropping 8.5% this year, putting it in the 75th percentile of the large-value Morningstar Category.
In 2020, managers Stephen Yacktman and Jason Subotky executed their “defense to offense” playbook in a steep selloff. “Entering that period with a 25% cash stake helped the fund lose 8 percentage points less than the Russell 1000 Value benchmark through the market’s March 23 trough,” writes Morningstar senior analyst Adam Sabban.
Multiple managers have quickly moved into cash this year. Federated Hermes Kaufmann (KAUFX) increased its cash stake by 7.7 percentage points from the start of the year to 10.8% of the fund. In his analysis of the fund, Thomas writes that “lead managers Hans Utsch and John Ettinger sometimes raise cash in times of uncertainty, but the sector managers might also hold cash if they can’t find the right opportunities.”
The portfolio’s cash stake can fluctuate. “It was as high as 23% in June 2019 but was just 1% in June 2021,” Thomas says. A pair of Fidelity funds went from holding less than 1% in cash to now dedicating more than 5% to cash. Fidelity Mid-Cap Stock (FMCSX) now holds a 6.76% cash allocation, and Fidelity Equity-Income (FEQIX) holds a 5.56% stake.
Amana Growth (AMAGX) upped exposure to cash by 5 percentage points in the first six months of 2022 to put its total stake at 10.52%, one of the largest allocations to cash in the large-growth category. Cash was one of the few sectors to contribute positively to the fund’s year-to-date decline of 16.5%, which still put the fund in the 22nd percentile in the category.
The fund’s cash allocation is still relatively light compared with previous periods. Morningstar senior analyst David Kathman writes, “The portfolio’s cash stake peaked at more than 30% in late 2008 and was one of the reasons it held up so well in that brutal bear market.”
Hong Kong is relaxing its crypto regulation to allow retail investors to trade digital assets directly. A licensing regime for crypto platforms that allows retail crypto trading is reportedly set to be enforced in March next year.
Hong Kong is reportedly relaxing its strict cryptocurrency regulation with a plan to allow retail crypto trading, Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.
A mandatory licensing regime for cryptocurrency platforms that allows retail crypto trading is set to be enforced in March next year, the publication conveyed, elaborating:
Hong Kong plans to legalize retail trading for crypto starting in March after years of skepticism — a stark contrast to mainland China’s ban.
Moreover, regulators are seeking to allow retail exchanges to list large cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH), the news outlet added. The listing rules are likely to include criteria such as the token’s market value, liquidity, and inclusion in third-party crypto indexes.
Gary Tiu, executive director at crypto firm BC Technology Group, commented:
Introducing mandatory licensing in Hong Kong is just one of the important things regulators have to do. They can’t forever effectively close the needs of retail investors.
Michel Lee, executive president of digital asset financial services group Hashkey, explained that Hong Kong has been trying to create an all-encompassing crypto regime, citing tokenized stocks and bonds as a potentially more important segment in the future. “Just trading digital assets on its own is not the goal. The goal is really to grow the ecosystem,” he was quoted as saying.
Hong Kong’s top financial regulator, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), introduced a voluntary licensing regime in 2018. It restricted crypto trading platforms to clients with portfolios of at least HK$8 million ($1 million). However, the tough regulation turned away many crypto businesses and only two firms — BC Technology Group and Hashkey — were approved.
Many people are skeptical of the new crypto regulation, however. Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong co-founder Leonhard Weese shared:
The kind of conversations I’ve had was that people still fear there’ll be a very strict licensing regime. Even if they’re able to deal directly with retail users, they’re still not going to be as attractive or as competitive as overseas platforms.
The SFC’s director of licensing and head of the fintech unit, Elizabeth Wong, said last week: “We’ve had four years of experience in regulating this industry … We think that this may be actually a good time to really think carefully about whether we will continue with this professional investor-only requirement.” She noted that Hong Kong could also authorize exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to offer exposure to mainstream crypto assets.
A student of Austrian Economics, Kevin found Bitcoin in 2011 and has been an evangelist ever since. His interests lie in Bitcoin security, open-source systems, network effects and the intersection between economics and cryptography.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Once happy with the settings, you can run a new crawl under the “Site Audit” tab.
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.
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.
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.
There are a few things you need to consider when looking for crawlability issues:
Optimizing the crawl budget
Identifying indexation issues
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:
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
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 tell a search engine not to crawl and/or index certain URLs or even your entire site by accident, that’s what will happen.
This is what the robots.txt file, which tells search engines not to crawl any pages, looks like:
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.”
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:
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.
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.
A crawl budget refers to how many pages and how rapidly a search engine can crawl.
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.
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.
So let’s take a look at the following:
Page titles and title tags
Page titles and title tags
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:
Here’s what it looks like in raw HTML format:
<title>How to Craft the Perfect SEO Title Tag (Our 4-Step Process)</title>
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.
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.
But writing meta descriptions is more than just filling a space. It’s about enticing potential site visitors.
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.
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.
You can find duplicate content issues in Site Audit: Site Audit > Reports > Duplicates > Issues.
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.
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.
You also get a feature in the Knowledge Panel that shows what a chocolate chip cookie is (along with some nutritional information):
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.
Image issues can be found in the main audit report: Site Audit > Reports > Images.
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
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.
HTTPS page links to HTTP image
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
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.
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
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
Go to Site Audit > Internal pages > Issues tab > 4XX page.
Here, you can see all of your site’s broken internal pages.
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
Go to Site Audit > Links > Issues tab > Orphan page (has no incoming internal links).
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.
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.
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.
Linking to other websites is a great way to provide value to your users. Often times, links help users to find out more, to check out your sources and to better understand how your content is relevant to the questions that they have.
As always, just like anything else, external links can cause issues. These can be found in the audit report (similar to internal links): Site Audit > All issues > Links.
As you can see from the image above, links are broken down into indexable and not indexable and you can find the same issues across both categories. However, each issue has a different predetermined importance level—depending on whether the link is indexable or not.
Page has links to broken page
Priority: High (if indexable)
This issue can refer to both internal and external links and simply means that the URLs linked to are returning a 4XX return code. These links damage the user experience for visitors and can impair the credibility of your site.
Page has no outgoing links
Priority: High (if indexable)
Again, this issue refers to both internal and external links and essentially means a page has no links from it at all. This means the page is a “dead end” for your site visitors and search engines. Bummer.
But in regards to external links specifically, if your page has no outgoing links, it affects all of the benefits of external links as discussed above.
Since May 2021, speed metrics known as Core Web Vitals (CWV) have been utilized by Google to rank pages. They use Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) to assess visual load, Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) to test visual stability, and First Input Delay (FID) to measure interactivity.
Google’s goal is to improve user experience because, let’s face it, no one likes a slow website. In today’s society, the need for instant gratification encourages site visitors to leave before they finish what they intend to do.
Within the Ahrefs audit report, you can find information about site speed: Site Audit > Reports > Performance > Overview.
You can get detailed page speed data from Google PageSpeed Insights if you enable Core Web Vitals in the Crawl settings.
There are also a number of excellent speed testing tools available, including PageSpeed Insights from Google and my personal favorite, GTmetrix.
Speed optimization for sites that are very slow can be a complex process. However, for beginners, it is advisable to use one of the available tools such as WPRocket or NitroPack (both paid) to significantly improve site speed.
In the world we now live, more individuals than ever before are continuously utilizing mobile devices. For example, mobile shopping currently has 60% of the market, according to Datareportal’s 300-page study.
It is no wonder that over the last few years, Google has looked to switch to mobile-first indexing.
From a technical standpoint, it is good practice to run a second audit on your site using Ahrefs’ mobile crawler. As a standard, Ahrefs’ audit tool uses a desktop crawl to audit your site; however, this can easily be changed under “Crawl Settings” within your “Project Settings.”
Our comparison function will compare your mobile and desktop sites and inform you what has changed or if any “new” issues have arisen once you have crawled your site a second time, e.g., problems that exist only on mobile.
From here, you can select any of the “New,” “Added,” or “Removed” numbers to determine what has changed with respect to each problem.
In all honesty, this is just scratching the surface when it comes to performing a technical SEO audit. Each of the points above can easily have an entire blog post about it and additional, more advanced issues like paginations, log file analysis, and advanced site architecture.
However, for someone looking to learn where to get started in order to successfully complete a technical SEO audit, this is a great place to begin.
Whenever you perform a technical SEO audit, you’ll always have tons to fix. The important thing is to get your priorities straight first. Luckily, Ahrefs’ Site Audit gives you a predefined priority rating for each issue.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that regardless of the issue, its importance depends on the website or page you’re working on. For example, the main pages you want to rank will always take priority over pages you don’t want to index.
Small retailers shop for dry fruits in a wholesale market, in New Delhi, Oct. 10, 2022. A record drop in the rupee -- on top of higher raw material and shipping costs - has made the nuts much costlier for Indian consumers. Manish Swarup—AP
The cost of living in Cairo has soared so much that security guard Mustafa Gamal had to send his wife and year-old daughter to live with his parents in a village 70 miles south of the Egyptian capital to save money. Gamal, 28, stayed behind, working two jobs, sharing an apartment with other young people and eliminating meat from his diet. “The prices of everything have been doubled,” he said. “There was no alternative.”
Around the world, people are sharing Gamal’s pain and frustration. An auto parts dealer in Nairobi, a seller of baby clothes in Istanbul and a wine importer in Manchester, England, have the same complaint: A surging U.S. dollar makes their local currencies weaker, contributing to skyrocketing prices for everyday goods and services. This is compounding financial distress at a time when families are already facing food and energy crunches tied to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The dollar is up 18% this year and last month hit a 20-year high, according to the benchmark ICE U.S. Dollar Index, which measures the dollar against a basket of key currencies.
The reasons for the dollar’s rise are no mystery. To combat soaring U.S. inflation, the Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark short-term interest rate five times this year and is signaling more hikes are likely. That has led to higher rates on a wide range of U.S. government and corporate bonds, luring investors and driving up the U.S. currency.
Most other currencies are much weaker by comparison, especially in poor countries. The Indian rupee has dropped nearly 10% this year against the dollar, the Egyptian pound 20%, the Turkish lira an astounding 28%.
Celal Kaleli, 60, sells infant clothing and diaper bags in Istanbul. Because he needs more lira to buy imported zippers and liners priced in dollars, he has to raise prices for the Turkish customers who struggle to pay him in the much-diminished local currency.
“We’re waiting for the new year,” he said. “We’ll look into our finances, and we’ll downsize accordingly. There’s nothing else we can do.”
Ordinarily, countries could get some benefit from falling currencies because it makes their products cheaper and more competitive overseas. But at the moment, any gain from higher exports is muted because economic growth is sputtering almost everywhere.
A rising dollar is causing pain overseas in a number of ways:
— It makes other countries’ imports more expensive, adding to existing inflationary pressures.
— It squeezes companies, consumers and governments that borrowed in dollars. That’s because more local currency is needed to convert into dollars when making loan payments.
Put simply: “The dollar’s appreciation is bad news for the global economy,’’ says Capital Economics’ Ariane Curtis. “It is another reason why we expect the global economy to fall into recession next year.’’
In a gritty neighborhood of Nairobi known for fixing cars and selling auto parts, businesses are struggling and customers unhappy. With the Kenyan shilling down 6% this year, the cost of fuel and imported spare parts is soaring so much that some people are choosing to ditch their cars and take public transportation.
“This has been the worst,” said Michael Gachie, purchasing manager with Shamas Auto Parts. “Customers are complaining a lot.’’
Gyrating currencies have caused economic pain around the world many times before. During the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, for instance, Indonesian companies borrowed heavily in dollars during boom times — then were wiped out when the Indonesian rupiah crashed against the dollar. A few years earlier, a plunging peso delivered similar pain to Mexican businesses and consumers.
The soaring dollar in 2022 is uniquely painful, however. It is adding to global inflationary pressures at a time when prices were already soaring. Disruptions to energy and agriculture markets caused by the Ukraine war magnified supply constraints stemming from the COVID-19 recession and recovery.
In Manila, Raymond Manaog, 29, who drives the colorful Philippine mini-bus known as a jeepney, complains that inflation — and especially the rising price of diesel — is forcing him to work more to get by.
“What we have to do to earn enough for our daily expenses,” he said. “If before we traveled our routes five times, now we do it six times.”
In the Indian capital New Delhi, Ravindra Mehta has thrived for decades as a broker for American almond and pistachio exporters. But a record drop in the rupee — on top of higher raw material and shipping costs — has made the nuts much costlier for Indian consumers.
In August, India imported 400 containers of almonds, down from 1,250 containers a year earlier, Mehta said.“If the consumer is not buying, it affects the entire supply chain, including people like me,’’ he said.
Kingsland Drinks, one of the United Kingdom’s biggest wine bottlers, was already getting squeezed by higher costs for shipping containers, bottles, caps and energy. Now, the rocketing dollar is driving up the price of the wine it buys from vineyards in the United States — and even from Chile and Argentina, which like many countries rely on the dollar for global trade.
Kingsland has offset some of its currency costs by taking out contracts to buy dollars at a fixed price. But at some point, “those hedges run out and you have to reflect the reality of a weaker sterling against the U.S. dollar,” said Ed Baker, the company’s managing director.
Translation: Soon customers will just have to pay more for their wine.
The surge in the value of the US dollar against other major currencies under the impact of the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike is raising concerns about its effect both on the financial system and the global economy.
According to an index compiled by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the dollar has risen 13 percent this year against a basket of currencies. But the movement is even more marked in relation to other major currencies.
So far this year the dollar has risen 17 percent against the pound, sending the British currency to its lowest point since 1985.
The Japanese yen has fallen to its lowest against the dollar in 24 years, amid expectations that its precipitous slide will go further, prompting hints from the government that official intervention may be necessary. The euro is now trading at below parity against the US currency for the first time since its launch in 1999.
Warnings about the continued dollar surge are being sounded in the financial press. Over the weekend the Financial Times (FT) published an editorial comment under the headline “Currency shifts add to global woes.”
It said that in the midst of an energy crisis and the highest inflation in four decades the “global economy is also being rattled by big realignments in exchange rates.” Under conditions of war in the Ukraine, the European energy crisis and concerns over how some emerging markets will manage high oil and food prices, there was a move to seek security in US assets, which are regarded as “the least unsafe option.”
The surging US dollar, which is fueling price hikes in the rest of the world via imported goods, is one of the factors driving interest rate hikes by central banks, particularly in Europe.
For so-called emerging market economies in addition to rising food and energy prices, the rise in the dollar increases the burden of dollar-denominated debt and threatens to spark capital outflows. According to the International Monetary Fund, around 20 emerging markets have debt now trading at “distressed” levels. This proportion can be expected to rise.
The WSJ noted that because the dollar is at the centre of world financial markets its rise can have unforeseen consequences. Investors and policy makers, it said, were being forced to “consider history’s unkind lessons…….to be continued