You may have the best possible website with the best content, But if your technical SEO is not suitable, this valuable content will never reach the proper rank and position. At the most basic level, search engines, including Google and others, must be able to find, crawl, render, and eventually index your website pages. But this is just the beginning of the story. Even if the Google search engine indexes your website’s content, it does not mean your work is finished. For this reason, for your website to have proper technical SEO, you need to observe items such as safety, optimization for mobile, free of duplicate content, fast loading speed, and thousands of other SEO technical audits.
In the article “An Ultimate Guide to SEO (Search Engine Optimization)” we introduce SEO technical audit. This article from Smart Strategy blog will cover all the topics about technical SEO audits.
what is an SEO technical audit?
SEO technical audit is a process in which you check the technical aspects of your site’s SEO and ensure its correct operation. As mentioned, SEO technical audit is not limited to crawling and indexing. For an SEO technical audit of a website, you should keep the following items in mind:
- Java Script
- XML maps
- Site architecture
- URL structure
- Structural data
- Thin content
- Duplicate content
- Conventional labels
- 404 pages
- 301 Redirects
Steps to have a proper SEO technical audit
1. website navigation structure
The website navigation structure is the first step in having an SEO technical audit (this is even more important than crawling and indexing). But why?
First, poor site structure design causes many issues and problems related to crawling and indexing. Therefore, if you do this step correctly, you will no longer need to worry about listing or indexing all the pages in the Google search engine.
Also, the site structure significantly impacts all your activities for optimization, From URLs to sitemaps, using robots.txt to block search engines from crawling; and everything is affected by site structure.
Finally, the main point is that a strong structure simplifies all technical SEO audit services.
Considering the above, we start the different stages of website navigation structure in SEO technical audits.
1.1. Use a hierarchical website structure
The website structure is how all the website pages are organized and arranged. Generally, it would be best to look for flat construction. In other words, all the pages of your website should be only a few links away from each other. But why is this important?
A hierarchical website structure makes it easy for Google and other search engines to crawl all website pages.
Suppose this issue is not crucial for a personal blog or a local website. However, it is essential for an e-commerce website that has more than 250 thousand pages related to different products.
A cluttered webpage creates pages with no internal linking. Such a structure makes it challenging to identify and fix indexing problems. You can use Ahrefs or Semrush to get an overview of your website structure in an SEO technical audit.
1.2. Inconsistent URL structure
You don’t need to pay too much attention to your URL structure, Especially if you run a small website or blog. However, your website URLs should have a logical and consistent URL structure. Consistent URL structure helps users and visitors understand “which part” of your website they are visiting.
Placing webpages in different subcategories helps Google to have more background about each page in that category.
For example, as you can see in the picture, all the pages related to the Smart Strategy site blog include the subfolder site:smartstrategy.ca/blog/. Therefore, This categorization helps Google to understand all the mentioned pages are in the “Blog Smart Strategy” category.
1.3. Breadcrumbs Navigation
Another item in technical SEO audit is breadcrumbs navigation. It is clear to everyone that Breadcrumbs Navigation has a positive role in technical SEO. Breadcrumb is highly effective because it automatically adds internal links to your site’s categories and subcategories in the crawling process.
This type of navigation helps with the strength and stability of your site’s architecture. Therefore, Google has changed the URL addresses in the SERP to the breadcrumb navigation style. Use Semruch to check your breadcrumbs navigation.
Crawling, rendering, and indexing
The second step in a technical SEO audit is to find the pages that search engines have trouble finding. There are three ways to do this.
2.1. Coverage Report
The first step is checking the “coverage report” in Google Search Console. This report said that Google could not index and render which pages.
2.2. Screaming Frog
Screaming Frog is the most popular crawler out there; The reason for this popularity is the practicality of this technical SEO audit tool. We recommend using Screaming Frog for an entire website crawl after fixing the issues reported in the coverage report.
2.3. Ahrefs site review tool
Ahrefs has provided a practical SEO technical audit tool. One of the best parts of this tool is that you can have comprehensive information about the health of your technical SEO audit. In addition, Ahrefs provide information about the speed of loading pages. You can also check for problems with your website’s HTML tags.
Each of these three introduced tools has its pros and cons. Therefore, if you manage a large website with more than 10,000 pages, it is recommended to use all three introduced tools together. In this way, there will be no hidden problems for your website.
2.4. Internal link to deep pages
Most people have no problem getting their website home page indexed in search engines; Rather, the deep pages of websites (pages that are several links away from the main page) ultimately lead to problems.
A smooth architecture usually prevents such problems from occurring. However, the most profound page of your website should only be 3 or 4 links away from the main page. In any case, if there is a specific deep page or set of pages that you want to index, nothing beats using internal links.
Especially if the page you are looking for has index content and is constantly crawled by search engines.
2.5. Using an XML sitemap
Despite mobile and AMP indexing advancements, you might wonder whether Google still needs an XML map to find your website’s URL.
Yes, it is.
Recently published reports by Google indicate that websites’ XML maps are the “second most important source” for finding URLs.
Although the report does not mention the “first important source,” it seems that the first ones are internal and external links.
To check your sitemap, visit the “Sitemap” feature in the search console.
This feature shows you how Google Sitemap views your website.
2.6. Review GSC (Google Search Console)
Is one of your website URLs not indexing? Well, the GSC Checkout feature can help you achieve your goal. In addition to announcing why the desired page is not indexed, this feature also provides other information to users.
Also, GSC provides information about how to render indexed pages. Using GSC as a technical SEO audit tool, you can ensure full crawling and indexing of the content of your website pages.
3. Thin and duplicate content
Thin and duplicate content is key to having a proper technical SEO audit. If you write unique and non-repeating content for each page of your website, you don’t need to worry about “duplicate content” anymore.
However, it is technically possible to have duplicate content on all sites, especially if your CMS creates multiple versions of the same page at different URLs.
“Thin content” is the same problem. Although thin content is not a significant issue on most websites, not paying attention can hurt your website’s overall ranking, so it’s always worth finding and fixing this problem. Again, use SEO technical audit tools such as Ahrefs and Semruch to find duplicate content.
3.1. Use an SEO review tool to find duplicate content.
The Ahrefs site review tool has a section titled “Content Quality” that shows you which pages on your website have duplicate content.
These tools focus on finding duplicate content on your website. It is worth noting that duplicate content includes pages that have copied the content of other sites.
Use citations to review and search for that text if you’ve seen a specific piece of your content on another page. If Google displays your page as the first SERP, you are considered the primary author of that content, and there is no problem.
If other people copy part of your content on their website, the problem of duplicate content is related to them and will not cause you any trouble. Therefore, you should only focus on duplicate content on your website and content copied from other websites.
3.2. New index pages that do not have unique content
Most sites have pages with duplicate content. It becomes problematic when these pages are indexed with duplicate content. The solution is straightforward. No index tag should be added to such pages.
This tag tells Google and other search engines that the desired page should not be indexed and listed.
You can verify the no-index tag of the page you are looking for by using the “URL Check Feature” in GSC. Then, enter your desired address and click on the “Test Live URL” option.
If Google indexes the page you are looking for, you will see the message “URL is available to Google.” Unfortunately, this means that the no index tag is not set correctly.
But if you encounter the message “Excluded by ‘no index’ tag,” setting the said tag has been done correctly.
Depending on your budget and the amount of crawling, it may take a few days or weeks for Google to re-crawl the pages you don’t want indexing.
Therefore, it is recommended to check the “Excluded” tab in the coverage report to ensure that new index pages are excluded from the index list.
3.3. Use canonical URLs
Another item in technical SEO audit is canonical URL. Most pages with duplicate content should be re-indexed, or the webpage content should be replaced with unique content.
But there is a third option: using canonical URLs
For pages with very similar content, it’s best to use canonical URLs where there are minor differences.
For example, you have an e-commerce site that sells hats, and you need to create a page for selling cowboy hats.
Depending on how your website is set up, any size, color, and minor changes can result in a different URL, which is inappropriate.
You can use the canonical tag so that Google knows that the first page related to this product is the “main” page.
The rest of the pages are different versions of the same product type.
4. Page speed
Improving and increasing the speed of displaying your website pages is one of the few technical SEO audit items that can directly affect the site’s ranking.
Of course, this does not mean that a high-speed website that takes little time to load will rank high on the first page of Google. But improving your website’s loading speed can significantly impact traffic and views.
Three methods of increasing the site speed are discussed here.
4.1. Reduce the size of web pages
CDNs, cache, lazy loading, minifying, and CSS.
Undoubtedly, you have heard the names of the above approaches thousands of times before. Still, most users don’t talk about another important factor in increasing the speed of web pages, and that is none other than “web page size.”
When we have reached the bottom line to increase the speed of large pages, we find that the overall size of a page has a direct relationship with its loading time.
The critical point about page retrieval speed is this: there is no easy fix to increase page retrieval speed. Maybe you say that the images on the pages can be strongly compressed or stored outside the site, but remember that if your website pages are large, the site loading process will be very time-consuming.
4.2. Check load time with CDN and without CDN
One of the most exciting findings regarding web page loading speed is that CDNs are associated with increased page load times.
This is probably because many CDNs are not configured correctly. Therefore, if your website uses a CDN, we recommend that you test the page loading speed using the webpagetest.org platform. Once with CDN and once without CDN.
4.3. Remove third-party scripts
Each script to a web page will add an average of 34 milliseconds to its load time.
Some of these scripts (such as Google Analytics) may be required and cannot be removed. But remember that sometimes it is necessary to look at the scripts and remove the extras.
in this article on the smart strategy we deep dive into different aspects of SEO technical audit and introduce helpful technical SEO audit tools to handle it correctly.
smart strategy as a leading digital marketing agency providing SEO technical audit services in Canada. To have more information about our technical SEO audit services and have a consultation with our technical SEO strategist please contact us.