Technical SEO Checklist For 2020 : Roadmap to Technical Audit
To successfully implement your SEO strategy, it is important to regularly conduct an SEO technical audit of your website. This will allow you to evaluate it and see how well it meets the criteria for search engine crawling and ranking. The technical SEO audit checklist includes multiple aspects in order to analyze and rank the technical parameters of the website content and structure. Let’s briefly discuss what technical SEO is and compile an SEO audit guide.
What Is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO is the optimization of the technical and structural components of a website for search engines. It also includes the correction of tech errors made during designing and developing the website.
The main components of technical SEO are:
- Increasing the website load speed.
- Optimization of URLs.
- Check of the settings of the main website mirror.
- Optimization of the website structure and pages.
- Optimization of the link structure.
- Mobile-friendly test.
- Navigation test.
- Optimization of the internal pages (on-page optimization).
- Optimization of the duplicate pages and content.
Technical SEO does not include:
- Content optimization.
- Website semantics.
- Link profiling and building.
Read more in article types of SEO.
Here, we will focus on how to do a technical SEO audit, what technical SEO audit tools there are, and what tools are worth using.
What is Technical SEO Audit?
A technical SEO audit is a comprehensive technical audit of a website, its structure, pages, and other components in order to identify any errors or hidden problems. If you ask why technical SEO audit is important, the answer is that the mistakes made during the website development may not manifest themselves for a while. At the same time, they will negatively affect the website ranking, its position in SERP, and user behavior.
Also, SEO site audit defines non-working elements of the website and related problems that arose during its development and functioning and now interfere with the promotion and interaction with users.
To understand how to perform an SEO audit, we should highlight promotion and user interaction which are the main areas in which a website audit and, if necessary, optimization might be needed:
- Website load speed. Many sites periodically come across the problem of a slow download, while high site speed is one of the key factors for user convenience.
- Functionality and usability. One of the main indicators, which affects both the ranking and user attitude. Among the key parameters are mobile-friendliness, URL relevance, no broken links, the well-thought-out website structure, and the convenience of the website for crawling and indexing by search engines.
- Technical page optimization. Checking and optimizing duplicate pages, removing unnecessary duplicates, checking meta description, title headers and subheaders, checking for keyword cannibalization, tuning and optimization of structured data, etc.
- User-friendly website. Checking the website for user convenience in the mobile and desktop versions, optimizing the structure and navigation, testing it on various devices.
Technical SEO Audit Checklist
This technical SEO checklist describes the steps for a technical SEO audit. All or a few of the items on the list might be useful to you for checking and optimizing your website functionality.
Speed and Load Time
Download speed greatly affects user behavior — more than half of them will not wait for a page with the load time over 3 seconds. To analyze your site load speed, use the Google Speed Test.
If we use The New Yorker page as an example, you will see that its load speed is rated as low:
n order to speed it up, consider optimizing the size of the images, while maintaining their quality. To do this, you can use the recommendations of PageSpeed Insights, as well as to conduct a comprehensive verification and image optimization.
Website Functionality and Usability
This step covers a comprehensive evaluation of the website, its visibility for search engines, and user convenience.
Website Crawling to Evaluate Its Structure and Content
Crawling a site using special tools allows you to identify possible problems when Google crawler indexes it. To do this, you can use free tools for site audit:
- Google Search Console.
- Google Analytics.
- Woo rank.
- Screaming Frog (free version)
How Mobile Friendly Your Website Is?
Website interaction with mobile devices plays a key role for users when crawling by Google. It is worth auditing your website with Google Mobile Friendly Test and, if necessary, optimizing it.
Checking Your Website URL and Pages
It is important to make sure that the URL of the site and pages is relevant to its subject and content, and will be understandable to search engines and users. It is important to pay attention to this point at the very beginning and carry out optimization even before the site is launched since changing the URL can lead to difficulties in recognition by search engines. When creating a URL, you should use keywords and make the names concise.
Setting the Primary Website Address
Of all the options for the address at which you can get to the site, only one should be available. You need to select the main mirror of the site, and set up a redirect to the main page at other addresses. Most experts recommend using the HTTPS protocol as the most preferred, in addition, back in 2014, Google called its one of the ranking factors. Read about how to select pages and set up a redirect correctly in article – 301 vs 302 redirects.
Sometimes indexing issues are related to the robots.txt file that tells Google which pages to check. If there are errors in this file, Google bot may misunderstand the content. Google specifications describe in detail the types of these files. You can read about other factors that influence indexing and how to get Google to crawl a website faster in How to submit your site in Google.
XML files structure the website and facilitate search engine indexing. This is especially true for large websites with many pages where a large amount of content is dynamically updated. Using the Google Search Console, you can check the site’s XML files and make the necessary changes according to the Sitemap report.
Technical optimization of the content implies an increase in its visibility for the search engine, identification of duplicate data, and structural weaknesses.
Duplicate Meta Description
For websites with a large number of pages, especially e-commerce websites, the problem of meta description duplication is typical. This confuses crawlers and interferes with indexing. It is important to identify duplicate meta descriptions and optimize them using keywords.
In the example of The New Yorker website, it is clear that meta description is duplicated in 7.20% of cases. At the same time, the duplicated Title H1 makes up 26.52%, and this is a very high number. Given the type of the website, the journal headings are most likely repeated.
Checking for Duplicate Pages
Duplicate pages may appear for various reasons, including:
- Errors in the domain settings.
- Printable pages are set available for indexing.
- Duplication of product catalog pages.
- Using session identifiers.
Duplicate pages are especially characteristic of the e-commerce segment. To detect them, check the indexed pages on request site: mysite.com using the Google Search Console and crawl. After finding duplicates, get rid of them using robot.txt. To do this, use the disallow directive.
Checking Links and Website Resources
Links are divided into internal and external ones — the former lead to pages within the website, and the latter to third-party resources. It is important that all links are working, so during the technical site audit you check all the links and make sure they work.
You may find broken links for the following reasons:
- The resource where the link leads to has changed its domain or URL.
- There are problems with the server.
- The linked document has been deleted.
In this case, configure a redirect to existing pages or relevant websites, or delete the link if the resource no longer works.
Also, check the operation of active redirects, availability, and speed of downloading images and videos. Sometimes, images take a long time to load or slow down the website. This might happen when using a large number of illustrations in the gif format. In this case, you can replace part of the visual content to improve the page.
Оn-Page Optimization Checklist
It is important to go through the on-page SEO checklist which includes the following:
- Checking Title/H1 headers and H2, H3, and other subheaders. The website should not repeat the headers. An exception could be an informational website where H1 is the name of the heading, a column that’s being updated, etc.
- A page should contain only one H1 heading, while the heading and H2, H3, and other subheadings should be not long. The optimal size is 50 to 60 characters.
- Check the keywords that are used to optimize different pages to avoid keyword cannibalization. It is also important that keywords appear in headings and subheadings. Today, headings are not a ranking factor, as Google spokesman John Mueller said. They help search engines better understand the content but do not explicitly affect the page position in SERP.
- Check the internal links. They allow you to create a website structure convenient for users and search engines. During on-page optimization and audit, you need to check the internal links and make sure they do not lead to empty pages internally. At the same time, avoid link oversaturation within a single page.
To optimize the technical parameters of your website while taking into account its user-friendliness, it is important to pay attention to navigation using breadcrumbs and structured data. This will make your website convenient and comprehensive for users and increase the time they spend on your website.
For mobile optimization, Google recommends using Accelerate Mobile Pages (AMT). This will speed up the website’s mobile version and contribute to indexing.
In addition to using Google tools and services for auditing, after making changes and conducting technical SEO optimization, it is worth testing the website on various devices in order to get the complete picture and find any flaws early.