The 12 most important elements of a technical SEO audit
However, it is important to know that your site probably has some type of technical issue. “There are no perfect websites without any room for improvement,” Elena Terenteva of SEMrush explained. “Hundreds and even thousands of issues might appear on your website.”
For example, over 80% of websites examined had 4xx broken link errors, according to a 2017 SEMrush study, and more than 65% of sites had duplicate content.
Ultimately, you want your website to rank better, get better traffic, and net more conversions. Technical SEO is all about fixing errors to make that happen. Here are 12 technical SEO elements to check for maximum site optimization.
1. Identify crawl errors with a crawl report
One of the first things to do is run a crawl report for your site. A crawl report, or site audit, will provide insight into some of your site’s errors.
You will see your most pressing technical SEO issues, such as duplicate content, low page speed, or missing H1/H2 tags.
You can automate site audits using a variety of tools and work through the list of errors or warnings created by the crawl. This is a task you should work through on a monthly basis to keep your site clean of errors and as optimized as possible.
2. Check HTTPS status codes
A Ranking Factors Study conducted by SEMrush found that HTTPS now is a very strong ranking factor and can impact your site’s rankings.
Make sure you switch over, and when you do, use this checklist to ensure a seamless migration.
Next, you need to look for other status code errors. Your site crawl report gives you a list of URL errors, including 404 errors. You can also get a list from the Google Search Console, which includes a detailed breakdown of potential errors. Make sure your Google Search Console error list is always empty, and that you fix errors as soon as they arise.
Finally, make sure the SSL certificate is correct. You can use SEMrush’s site audit tool to get a report.
3. Check XML sitemap status
The XML sitemap serves as a map for Google and other search engine crawlers. It essentially helps the crawlers find your website pages, thus ranking them accordingly.
You should ensure your site’s XML sitemap meets a few key guidelines:
- Make sure your sitemap is formatted properly in an XML document
- Ensure it follows XML sitemap protocol
- Have all updated pages of your site in the sitemap
- Submit the Sitemap to your Google Search Console.
How do you submit your XML Sitemap to Google?
You can submit your XML sitemap to Google via the Google Search Console Sitemaps tool. You can also insert the sitemap (i.e. http://example.com/sitemap_location.xml) anywhere in your robots.txt file.
Make sure your XML Sitemap is pristine, with all the URLs returning 200 status codes and proper canonicals. You do not want to waste valuable crawl budget on duplicate or broken pages.
4. Check site load time
Your site’s load time is another important technical SEO metric to check. According to the technical SEO error report via SEMrush, over 23% of sites have slow page load times.
Site speed is all about user experience and can affect other key metrics that search engines use for ranking, such as bounce rate and time on page.
To find your site’s load time you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Simply enter your site URL and let Google do the rest.
You’ll even get site load time metrics for mobile.
This has become increasingly important after Google’s roll out of mobile-first indexing. Ideally, your page load time should be less than 3 seconds. If it is more for either mobile or desktop, it is time to start tweaking elements of your site to decrease site load time for better rankings.
5. Ensure your site is mobile-friendly
Your site must be mobile-friendly to improve technical SEO and search engine rankings. This is a pretty easy SEO element to check using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test: just enter your site and get valuable insights on the mobile state of your website.
You can even submit your results to Google to let them know how your site performs.
A few mobile-friendly solutions include:
- Increase font size
- Embed YouTube videos
- Compress images
- Use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).
6. Audit for keyword cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization can cause confusion among search engines. For example, if you have two pages in keyword competition, Google will need to decide which page is best.
“Consequently, each page has a lower CTR, diminished authority, and lower conversion rates than one consolidated page will have,” Aleh Barysevich of Search Engine Journal explained.
One of the most common keyword cannibalization pitfalls is to optimize home page and subpage for the same keywords, which is common in local SEO. Use Google Search Console’s Performance report to look for pages that are competing for the same keywords. Use the filter to see which pages have the same keywords in the URL, or search by keyword to see how many pages are ranking for those same keywords.
In this example, notice that there are many pages on the same site with the same exact keyword. It might be ideal to consolidate a few of these pages, where possible, to avoid keyword cannibalization.