Much of what goes into search engine optimization (SEO) focuses on what people can actually see when they visit a site. That is not without reason. Things like quality content and a site’s readability go a long way toward generating traffic and getting people to stick around. But website owners and SEO experts should never forget technical SEO health, either.
Technical SEO deals with all of those ‘under the hood’ things. It deals with backend site things like loading speed, site structure, and other aspects that can’t really be seen on the page but still impact the user experience. Technical SEO is just as important as any other part of the SEO equation. So it’s important to conduct regular site audits in order to maintain technical SEO health.
Below you will find a number of strategies for figuring out just how healthy your site’s technical SEO is. In some cases, solutions to key problems are offered.
1. Make Sure Your Site Is Being Indexed
The most important thing you need to know from each audit is that your site is actually being indexed by Google and its competitors. No amount of technical SEO will help if it’s not. There are two ways to do this:
- Site Search – The easiest way is to open your browser and enter your site’s URL into the address bar using the ‘site:’ tag. You would type something like ‘site: https://yoursitename.com’. You can do this for your primary domain or any of the pages on your site.
- Google Search Console – You can also use Google’s Search Console tool. With this tool, you can connect your domain and see if it’s being properly indexed.
The advantage of using Google Search Console is specificity. Searching only with the ‘site:’ tag might return a bunch of results that are not relevant to you. In other words, it is too broad a search. The Console tool lets you create a property for your domain(s) and see what search phrases people are using to discover your site. You can also use Search Console to make sure your site doesn’t have any security issues and to upload your sitemap directly for Google to crawl and index.
2. Find Duplicate Content with a Crawler
Search engines use crawlers to dig around and build maps of the websites they find. A site heavy with duplicate content creates a problem. Fortunately, it is an easy enough problem to fix. You simply use a tool like Lumar (formerly DeepCrawl) or Screaming Frog that is capable of digging deeply into every nook and cranny of your website. Where you find duplicate content, address it. Duplicate content can be eliminated, updated, refreshed, etc. For e-commerce websites, you may notice that a lot of your product pages can get flagged. It’s important to note that Google does understand that e-commerce sites can tend to look alike and doesn’t necessarily punish e-commerce sites too hard for this.
3. Check Your Site for Speed
Google has stated numerous times that its algorithms favor speed. Simply put, your site will not rank well if it takes too long to load. The same goes for every page on your site. When you are running your regular audits, check your site for speed. It is pretty simple. A tool like Google’s Page Speed Insights does the trick.
Ideally, a website should load in 1-2 seconds. If you are up to 3 seconds or higher, the chances of your site being abandoned by visitors are pretty high. Google certainly doesn’t want its users visiting sites they will ultimately abandon. So they rank faster sites higher.
4. Verify Your Site Is Mobile Friendly
Along the same lines as speed is mobile friendliness. Some time ago, Google made it clear that they were developing a mobile-first search engine. Those plans ultimately did come to fruition in 2016. Google now gives preference to mobile-friendly sites over those that are not mobile-friendly.
You can check how mobile-friendly a site is by using a tool like Bing’s Mobile Friendliness Test tool. If you discover it is not as mobile-friendly as it should be, changing that is a priority. Once you know your site is being properly indexed, speed and mobile friendliness are the two things you need to work on most.
5. Track Your Site’s Traffic
Website owners can integrate Google Analytics into their websites by using what is known as the Google Analytics Tracking ID. This is a unique ID assigned by Google when you enable the ‘Create a Universal Analytics Property’ within your Google Analytics account. Note that you can only use the tracking ID if you already have a Google Analytics account and have a property (your website) within that account.
Once the tracking ID is installed, It gives you access to a ton of data regarding your site’s traffic. You can see how much traffic you are getting, where it is coming from, what people are doing on your site when they visit, etc. The information can tell you a lot about the technical aspects of your SEO efforts.
6. Check All Images on Your Site
Too many website owners do not understand just how much of an impact large images can have on your site speed if not optimized. Images need to be optimized in terms of descriptive meta tags, compression, and so forth. Images and alt text help the visually impaired better understand page content. In short, Google expects images to be optimized. If yours are not, they are hurting your SEO performance.
7. Check for Broken Links
Search engines hate broken links almost as much as non-optimized images. Broken links represent a website that isn’t being properly maintained. Check your site’s links with a site crawler tool that will scan and check every link on your site. Both Screaming Frog and Lumar, mentioned above, are good for this. Any and all broken links should be updated with relevant links or completely deleted. Updates are preferred.
8. Check and Simplify Your URLs
Complicated and unreadable URLs are bad for SEO. Again, there are plenty of tools capable of scanning your site’s URLs to analyze their structure and readability. Where you find bad URLs fix them. The two keys to productive URLs are simplicity and descriptiveness.
9. Update Your Sitemap
Every website should have a sitemap attached. Why? Because web crawlers make use of sitemaps to fully understand site structure. Your regular technical SEO health audits should include a sitemap update.
Every page on your site should have a sitemap entry. That is the starting point. Taking things one step further, the most important pages on your site should only be 3-4 clicks away from your site’s main entry point – be that a menu, navigation bar, or first link. The fewer clicks required to get to the most important information, the happier visitors will be.
10. Verify On-Page SEO During Your Technical SEO Audit
Finally, your regular audits should include on-page SEO optimization. This portion of the audit is where you are looking at your actual content to make sure it has been optimized under the hood. Here is what you should be looking at:
- Quality metadata and page descriptions
- Optimized title tags
- Generous use of H2 and H3 tags
- First paragraph keyword targeting
- Internal links and their target anchor text
- Generous use of images, videos, and graphics.
The quality of your content is obviously non-negotiable. It must be relevant, helpful, well-written, and readable. But don’t forget the technical aspects. For example, Google algorithms pay close attention to title, H2, and H3 tags inasmuch as said tags help them understand content structure. Make sure that the technical quality web crawlers find matches the content quality your visitors experience when they visit.
Running technical SEO health audits is an integral part of maintaining strong performance on search engine result pages (SERPs). How often should you run audits? As often as you have the time to do so. An annual audit is the bare minimum. Webtek Digital Marketing is a full-service digital marketing firm. Technical SEO health audits are among the many services we offer. Contact us to learn more about how we can help improve your site’s SERP performance.