A Detailed Guide to Technical SEO Audit

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a critical part everybody’s life. Though the term Technical SEO is not so commoly used even among experts. Well, that is understandable as it can be argued that every part of SEO is technical.

In this checklist suggested a detailed of technical SEO audit, we have included SEO issues, SEO mistakes, SEO tips and recommendations.. We want to cover, in the most effective way possible, all the elements that are important for making your website user-friendly, efficient, visible in SERP, functional and easy to understand.

Read other related posts:

WordPress Performance: How to Find a Slow Plugin

Why SEO keeps changing the way it works

Website Cloaking: What The Search Engines Allow and Disallow

Useful URL Structuring Tips That Will Help Higher Ranking

 

Technical SEO: the Complete List

I. Website Loading Speed Time

    Improve Server Response Time
    Optimize & Reduce Image Size Without Affecting the Visual Appearance
    Minimize the Render-Blocking Javascript and CSS
    Limit the Number of Resources & HTTP Requests
    Set a Browser Cache Policy
    Reduce the Number of Redirects & Eliminate Redirect Loop
    Avoid Loading Your Site With Too Much Stuff

II. Website Functionality & Usability

    Make Sure Your Website Is Mobile Friendly
    Build Search Engine Friendly URLs
    Use the Secure Protocol – HTTPs
    Set Preferred Version
    Set up Correctly the 301 Redirects After Site Migration
    Make Sure Your Resources Are Crawlable
    Test Your Robots.Txt File to Show Google the Right Content
    Verify the Indexed Content
    Review Your Sitemap to Avoid Being Outdated
    Review Blocked Resources (Hashbang URLs) with Fetch as Google
    Optimize Your Crawl Budget
    Avoid Meta Refresh for Moving a Site
    Use Redirect for Flash Site to the HTML Version
    Use Hreflang for Language and Regional URLs
    Make Sure Your Tracking Is Working Properly

III. Content Optimization

    Redirect/Replace Broken Links & Resources
    Audit Internal Links to Improve Your Chances to Rank Higher
    Get Rid of Duplicate Content
    Use Structured Data to Highlight Your Content
    Keep a Reasonable Number of Links On-Page
    Avoid Canonicalizing Blog Pages to the Root of the Blog

IV. User-Friendlier Website

    Set up Your AMP the Right Way – Mobile Friendlier
    Add Breadcrumbs for a Better Navigation
    Test On as Many Platforms and Devices as Possible

 Read other related posts:

20 Top SEO Techniques that Produce Good Results

A Guide to Website Traffic Optimization

14 SEO Tips That Will Improve Your Website Ranking


I. Website Loading Speed Time

Generally speaking, websites all around the world load pretty slow, with an average of 19 seconds to load on a 3G mobile network. But on the web, time is of essense and website visitors and users take website speed very seriously. Testing has confirmed that around 50% of users abandon a website if it doesn’t load faster than 3 seconds, on average.

The implication is that if your website loads slowly, you can lose a lot of visitors.

Warning: Playing with PHP, servers, databases, compression, minification and other similar things can really mess up your website if you don’t know what you’re doing. Make sure you have a proper backup of the files and the database before you start playing with these options.

When we talk about speed, there are a few things we need to consider for making your site efficient and easy to access for your users. A faster loading speed time means higher conversion and lower bounce rates. For that, we’ve selected some mandatory speed optimization suggestions. Using Google’s Speed Test, you can perform easy and short analyses of your website’s loading speed time.

The tool has improved over the years and now you can see helpful charts for large websites to understand how each website is performing. One example is the Page Load Distributions.

The Page Load Distribution uses two user-centric performance metrics: first, contentful paint (FCP) and DOMContentLoaded (DCL). The contentful paint marks the first bit of content there is on the screen when the browser starts to render pixels. The DOMContentLoaded marks the moment when the DOM is ready and there are no stylesheets that are blocking JavaScript execution. These two metrics show exactly which percentage of the content loads faster and the one that needs improvement by looking at those pages with average and slow speed (if you follow the chart).

Another example includes the speed and optimization indicators which show where each website is situated. In the picture showed below, we can see the FCP and DCP score. These two metrics use the data from the Chrome User Experience. It indicates the page’s median FCP (1.8s) and DCL (1.6s) ranks it in the middle third of all pages. That means this page has a low level of optimization because most of its resources are render-blocking.
 
1. Improve Server Response Time

Server response time refers to the period of time it takes to load the HTML code to begin rendering the page from your server. Basicaly, when you access a page, it sends a message to the server and the time it take to show you that information is considered to be the server response time.

There are lots of reasons why a website has a slow response time. Google announces just some of them:

There are dozens of potential factors which may slow down the response of your server: slow application logic, slow database queries, slow routing, frameworks, libraries, resource CPU starvation, or memory starvation.
   Google Developers

The server response time depends on how much time the Googlebot needs to access the data. Be it 1, 2 ,3 seconds or more, it will convert your visitor or not. Google says that you should keep the server response time under 200ms.

There are 3 steps you need to follow to test and improve the server response time:

  •     Firstly, you need to collect the data and inspect why the server response time is high.
  •     Secondly, measure your server response time to identify and fix any future performance bottlenecks.
  •     Lastly, monitor any regression.

Many times, the reason why a website loads slow is the server itself. It’s very important to choose a high quality server from the beginning. Moving a site from a server to another might sound easy in theory, but it can be accompanied by a series of possible problems such as file size limits, wrong PHP versions and many more.

Choosing the right server can be difficult because of pricing. If you’re a multinational corporation, you probably need dedicated servers, which are expensive. If you’re just starting out with a blog, shared hosting services will probably be enough, which are usually cheap.

However, there are good shared hosting servers and bad dedicated ones and vice versa. Just don’t go after the cheapest or the most renowned.
 
2. Optimize & Reduce Image Size Without Affecting the Visual Appearance

If a website is loading really slow, one of the first things that come in mind are images. Why? Because they’re big. And we’re not talking in size on screen but in size on disk.

Besides all the information an image has, as mentioned before, it also downloads lots of bytes on a page, making the server take more time than it should to load all the information. Instead, if we optimize the page, the server will perform faster because we removed the additional bytes and irrelevant data. The fewer the downloaded bytes by the browser, the faster a browser can download and render content on the screen.

There are lots of solutions for compressing images. Here are a few tips and recommendations to optimize your images:

  •     Use PageSpeed Insights;
  •     Compress images automatically in bulk with dedicated tools (tinypng.com, compressor.io, optimizilla.com) and plugins (WP Smush, CW Image Optimizer, SEO Friendly Images) and so on;
  •     Use GIF and PNG formats because they are lossless. PNG is the desired format. The best compression ratio with a better visual quality can be achieved by PNG formats;
  •     Convert GIF to PNG if the image is not an animation;
  •     Remove transparency if all of the pixels are opaque for GIF and PNG;
  •     Reduce quality to 85% for JPEG formats; that way you reduce the file size and don’t visually affect the quality;
  •     Use progressive format for images over 10k bytes;
  •     Prefer vector formats because they are resolution and scale independent;
  •     Remove unnecessary image metadata (camera information and settings);
  •     Use the option to “Save for Web” from dedicated editing programs.

If you’re using WordPress, you can choose a simple solution, such as the Smush Image Compression Plugin.

Google PageSpeed Insights recommends using new format images such as JPEG2000 or WEBP. However, not all browsers and devices display these formats well yet, so regular image compression is still recommended, despite Google making efforts to push this.

The only real issue with PageSpeed Insights is that you can only check one page at a time. However, note that if you have a very big website, this process might take a very long time. It’s better if you opt out of this process at first before the first analysis is done (so that you may have all the data and start fixing some of the issues) and start the PageSpeed process later. It can take up to 10 seconds per page, so if you have 60,000 pages it can take a week.

3. Minimize the Render-Blocking Javascript and CSS & Structure HTML Accordingly

When you perform a speed test with Google’s PageSpeed Insights, you will see this message: Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content in case you have some blocked resources that cause a delay in rendering your page. Besides pointing out the resources, the tool also offers some great technical SEO tips regarding:

  •     Removing render-blocking JavaScript;
  •     Optimizing CSS delivery.

You can remove render-blocking JavaScript by following Google’s guidelines and avoid or minimize the use of blocking JavaScript using three methods:

  •     Inline JavaScript;
  •     Make JavaScript Asynchronous;
  •     Defer loading of JavaScript.

If Google detects a page which delays the time to first render because it contains blocking external stylesheets, then you should optimize CSS delivery. In this case, you have two options:

  •     For small external CSS resources, it is recommended to inline a small CSS file and help the browser to render the page;
  •     For large CSS files, you have to use Prioritize Visible Content to reduce the size of the above-the-fold content, inline CSS necessary for rendering it and then defer loading the remaining style.

PageSpeed shows which files need to be optimized through the minifying technique. When we talk about resources, we understand HTML, CSS, and JavaScript resources. Basically, the tool will indicate a list of HTML resources, CSS resources, and JavaScript resources, depending on the situation.

For each kind of resources, you have individual options:

  1.     HTMLMinifier to minify HTML;
  2.     CSSNano and csso to minify CSS;
  3.     UglifyJS to minify JavaScript.

There are 3 processes that need to be followed in the minifying process, explained by Ilya Grigorik, Web performance engineer at Google:

  1.     Compress the data. After you eliminate the unnecessary resources, you need to compress the ones that the browser needs to download. The process consists in reducing the size of the data to help the website load the content faster.
  2.     Optimize the resources. Depending on what sort of information you want to provide on your site, make an inventory for your files and keep only the one that is relevant, to avoid keeping irrelevant data. After you decide which information is relevant to you, you’ll be able to see what kind of content-specific optimizations you’ll have to do.
  3.     Gzip compression is best used for text-based data. In the process, you are able to compress web pages and style sheets before sending them to the browser. It works wonders for CSS files and HTML because these types of resources have a lot of repeated text and white spaces. The nice part of Gzip is that it temporarily replaces the similar strings within a text file to make the overall file size smaller.

For WordPress users there are simpler solutions:

     Autoptimize plugin to fix render blocking scripts and CSS. You need to install the plugin and afterward you can find it in Settings » Autoptimize to configure the settings. All you have to do is check the box for JavaScript and CSS, in our case, and click on Save Changes.

    W3 Total Cache to fix render-blocking JavaScript. This is another tool provided for WordPress users and it requires a little more work. After you install it, you need to go to Performance » General Settings and look for the Minify section.

Check the enable box from the Minify option and then in Manual mode. In the end, click on Save all settings and add the scripts and CSS that you want to minify. After that, you’re set.

However, don’t get tricked by Google. The truth is that PageSpeed Insights is just a guideline. For example, PageSpeed Insights shows Analytics and Tag Manager as being JS that blocks the loading of important content. Yet they force you to put it in the <head> section.

    Never remove something that is essential for tracking or for your site’s functionality just to get 100% score on PageSpeed Insights or GT Metrix.

 
4. Limit the Number of Resources & HTTP Requests

One of the first actions that come to mind when we talk about website speed is reducing the number of resources. When a user enters your website, a call is made to the server to access the requested files. The larger those files are, the longer it will take to respond to the requested action.

Rapid, multiple requests always slow down a server. It’s a combination of multiple factors that lead to this, but you can compare it to copying 1 large file on a hard disk against copying a very large number of small files. Usually, the small files take longer to copy because the disk needle has to keep moving. This is different with SSD technology where there are no needles but there’s still a lot more work to do to copy multiple files than to copy a single larger file.

To check your HTTP requests, you can open an Icognito (to make sure you don’t have cached requests which won’t take place) Tab in Chrome, right click and hit Inspect (at the bottom). Then you need to find the network subtab and hit F5 to refresh the page. This will start monitoring the requests and at the end you’ll see the number of requests.

There’s no general number, we can say that you should try to keep this number under 100. This really depends on the page. If it’s a HUGE page, then it can have more requests. Then again, it could be a good idea to paginate it.

The best thing you can do is delete unnecessary resources (like sliders) and then minimize the overall download size by compressing the remaining resources.

Another thing you can do is combine the CSS and JS files in a single file so that 1 single request is being made. Plugins such as Autoptimize and W3 Total Cache (both mentioned above) can do this. Through the combine option, the plugin basically takes all the CSS and JS files and merges them into a single file.

This way, the browser will only have to make one request to the server for all those files instead of one request for each file.

However, be careful! This option can usually break an entire site or make it display really messed up, so make sure you have a proper backup of the files and database before you start making any changes.
 

5. Set a Browser Cache Policy

The browser cache automatically saves resources in the visitor’s computer the first time they visit a new website. When users then enter the site a second time, those resources will help them get the desired information at a faster speed, if they return to that page. This way, the page load speed is improved for returning visitors.

For visitors that want to return to a page or visit a new page that in a specific moment can’t be accessed, there’s the option to view the cached version directly from SERP.

The best way to significantly improve the page speed load is to leverage the browser cache and set it according to your needs.

Most of the Minification, Compression and Combination plugins are actually cache plugins, so they all have this function. You can use W3 Total Cache or any other caching plugin suits you best. However, a combination between W3 Total Cache’s caching and Autoptimize’s compression and combining is best.

Using a cache will also make changes harder to spot. If you make a change to your website, open an Icognito tab to see the changes and go to the plugin settings from time to time to reset the cache.
 
6. Reduce the Number of Redirects & Eliminate Redirect Loop

Redirects can save you from a lot of trouble regarding link equity/juice and broken pages, but it can also cause you lots of problems if you have tons of them. A large number of redirects will load your websites at a slower speed. The more redirects, the more time a user must spend to get on the landing page.

Plain and simple, WordPress redirects slow down your site. That’s why it’s worth taking the time to minimize the number of redirects visitors to your site experience. There are times that it’s appropriate to intentionally create and use redirection, but limit the use of redirection to necessary instances and make sure your visitors have the fastest experience possible when browsing your WordPress website.
Jon Penland
 Support Engineer at Kinsta /  @jonrichpen

 

One other thing worth mentioning is that you need to have only one redirect for a page, otherwise you risk having a redirect loop. A redirect loop is a chain of redirects for the same page, which is misleading because the browser won’t know which page to show and will end up giving a pretty nasty error.

In case you have 404 pages, there are lots of ways to customize the page and give some guidelines to the users so you won’t lose them. Design a friendly page and send the user back to your homepage or to another relevant and related piece of content.

For finding the broken pages for your website, you can use the Google Search Console.
 
7. Avoid Loading Your Site With Too Much Stuff

Over time, sites tend to get clogged up with useless images, plugins and functions that are never used. Why?

If you use WordPress, for example, you might test a lot of plugins and install them on your website, only to find out that you don’t really need them. Sure, you can disable them and eventually uninstall them but the problem with WordPress uninstalls is that they’re often dirty, leaving traces in your Database which can make it a little slower.

Another very common type of plugin that webmasters use are Sliders. Sliders used to be popular but recent testing has shown over and over again that they kill conversions

Not only that, but Sliders also usually load your site with a lot of things you don’t need. The first one is usually the Javascript file which tends to load on all pages (either in the footer or the head section of your HTML). However, the slider is most probably used only on the homepage.

Also, if you have 6 slides on your homepage, with 6 big pretty images, your site can be 2 or 3 times slower because of the size in bytes of the images. Unfortunately, nobody is probably going to look past the second image, if it auto-slides, of course.

A good workaround is having some sort of development environment where you can test 5-10 plugins until you find exactly what you need. Then, make a plan of implementation so that you know only the essentials you need to install on the live version.

After that, you can reset the development version by deleting it and copying the updated live version to it. This way, the live version will not be clogged either and will resemble the live version more.
 

II. Website Functionality & Usability

After you make sure your website can load fast for your users, it’s time to see what you can do to improve your visibility in the search engines. There are very many aspects that go into this, but the following ones are a mixture between the most important ones and the most common mistakes that webmasters make.
 
8. Make Sure Your Site Is Mobile Friendly

There’s nothing much to say here. Since more than 50% of all the users worldwide are using their mobile devices to browse the internet, Google has prioritized mobile indexation. You should make sure that your website is optimized for mobile devices.

This is usually meant in terms of design, but also in terms of speed and functionality. Generally, it’s preferred to have a responsive design rather than a fully separate mobile version, as the m.site.com subdomain requires extra steps to be implemented correctly using rel=alternate tag.

You can ensure that your site is mobile friendly by testing it on Google’s Mobile Friendly Test Page.

 9. Build Search Engine Friendly URLs

URLs are very important because it’s good not to change them. This means you have to get them right the first time. It’s useful for users and search engines to have URLs that are descriptive and contain keywords.

However, many people often forget this and build websites with dynamic URLs that aren’t optimized at all. It’s not that Google doesn’t accept them. They can rank but, eventually, you’ll get to the point where you’ll have to merge to new ones to improve performance, UX and search engine visibility and it’s going to be a struggle.

 

    Changing page URLs very often results in issues with search engines. It’s always better if you get them good the first time.

 

We’ve talked on this topic various times before because it is important to have easy-to-follow URLs. Avoid having query parameters in URL. You can’t keep track of that URL in Analytics, Search Console and so on. Not to mention it is difficult to do link building. You might lose linking opportunities because of your URLs appearance.

If you’re a WordPress user, you have the option to personalize and set up your permalink structure.

Building friendly URLs is not so hard, you can follow the next 3 tips:

  1.     use dashes (-) instead or underscores (_);
  2.     make it shorter;
  3.     use the keyword (focus keyword).

Building easy-to-read and focus-keyword-URLs you are thinking about your users and therefore focusing on user experience. David Farkas has the same vision on the matter:

If you focus on user experience, you’ll be building sustainable links – and building trust with users. To build a truly great link, you have to look at every aspect of the link from the user’s perspective.
   David Farkas
Founder & CEO TheUpperRanks

 
10. Use the Secure Protocol – HTTPS

 

On August 6, 2014, Google announced that HTTPS protocol is on their new ranking factors list and recommended to all the sites to move from HTTP to HTTPS.

HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) encryptes the data and doesn’t allow it to be modified or corrupted during transfer, while protecting it against man-in-the-middle attacks. Besides, the improvement in data security has other benefits, such as:

  1.     It helps your website have a boost in rankings, since it is a ranking factor.
  2.     It offers referrer details included under “Direct” traffic source in Google Analytics.
  3.     It assures the users that the website is safe to use and that the data provided is encrypted for avoiding hacking or data leaks.

If you use the HTTPS, will see a lock before the URL in the navigation bar:

 

In case your website doesn’t use the HTTPS protocol, you’ll see an information icon and if you click on it, a new message will alert you that the connection is not safe, therefore the website is not secure.

While it is best to move from HTTP to HTTPS, it is crucial to find the best way to recover all your data after moving your website.

We’ve created a guideline on how to recover Facebook (and Google+) shares after an https migration that you could easily follow:

  1.     Find out how many Facebook shares you have at a URL;
  2.     Set both your HTTP and HTTPs social shares to zero;
  3.     Update rel=”canonical”;
  4.     Identify Facebook’s Crawler.

This issue is related to URLs so, every time you need to do mass redirects, issues can occur. It’s always a good idea to have your URLs well set up from the beginning. However, if you really need to migrate the site from HTTP to HTTPS, you can check out this HTTP to HTTPS migration guide.
 
11. Set Your Preferred Version

You also want to make sure that all your other versions are pointing to the correct, preferred version of your site. If people access one version they should automatically be redirected to the correct version.

 

These are all the versions:

    http://site.com
    https://site.com
    http://www.site.com
    https://www.site.com

 

So, if your preferred version is https://www.site.com, all other versions should 301 directly to that version.
 
12. Set up Correctly the 301 Redirects After Site Migration

Site migration is a recommended operation in case the website is changed completely and the same domain won’t be used anymore. Setting up the 301 redirects can be applied in case you make a switchover from HTTP to HTTPS and want to preserve the link equity.

In case of a site migration, it is crucial to set up correctly the redirects. To avoid losing lots of links and have broken pages on your site, it is best to follow a correct 301 redirection procedure. For that, you need to take into consideration the next recommendations. For the vast majority, we’ve already covered some of them in the previous steps:

  1.     Set up the 301 redirect code from the old URLs to the new URLs;
  2.     Avoid redirection loops;
  3.     Remove invalid characters in URLs;
  4.     Verify the preferred version of your new domain (www vs. non-www);
  5.     Submit a change of address in Search Console;
  6.     Submit the new sitemap in Google;
  7.     Check for broken links and resources.

 
13. Make Sure Your Resources Are Crawlable

Having non-crawlable resources is a critical search engine optimization technical issue. Crawling is the first step, right before indexing, which comes and puts your content in the user’s hands/eyes. Basically, Googlebot crawls the data and then sends it to the indexer which renders the page and after that, if you’re lucky, you’ll see that page ranking in SERP.

    It is very important that the users see the same content that the Googlebot does.

If your CSS files are closed from indexing, Google won’t be able to see the pages like a users does. The same situation applies to Javascript, if it isn’t crawlable. With JavaScript, it is a little bit more complicated, especially if your site is heavily built using AJAX. It is necessary to write codes for the server to send an accurate version of the site to Google.

 

    If you’re not blocking Googlebot from crawling your JavaScript or CSS files, Google will be able to render and understand your web pages like modern browsers.

 

Google recommends using Fetch as Google to let Googlebot crawl your JavaScript.

 
As of 2019, the Google Search Console has launched a new version which doesn’t have many of the features the old version had. Luckily, you can still access the old version if you need those features. However, they are likely to be completely removed at some point, who knows.

 
14. Test Your Robots.Txt File to Show Google the Right Content

 

Crawlability issues are usually related to the robots.txt file. Testing your robots.txt file helps Googlebot by telling it which pages to crawl and which not to crawl. By using this method, you give access to your data to Google.

You can view your robots.txt file online if you search for http://domainname. com/robots.txt. Make sure the order of your files is right. It should look similar to what you can see in the following picture:

Use the robots.txt Tester tool from Search Console to write or edit robots.txt files for your site. The tool is easy to use and shows you whether your robots.txt file blocks Google web crawlers from specific URLs. The ideal situation would be to have no errors:

The errors appear when Google is unable to crawl the specific URL due to a robots.txt restriction. There are multiple reasons for that and Google names just some of them:


For instance, your robots.txt file might prohibit the Googlebot entirely; it might prohibit access to the directory in which this URL is located; or it might prohibit access to the URL specifically.
Google
 

 

The common issues that appear when Googlebot is blocked to access your website happen because:

  •     There are DNS issues and Google can’t communicate with DNS server;
  •     The firewall or DoS protection system is misconfigured ;
  •     The Googlebot is intentionally blocked from reaching the website.

After you’ve checked the issues and found out which are the blocked resources pointed in the Tester tool, you can test again and see if your website is ok.

 

The site’s crawlability can be verified better on a larger scale using the CognitiveSEO Audit Tool. You simply have to go to Indexability > Indexable Pages and look for the Disallowed in Robots.txt links. Click on the red line and it will show you a list of URLs that have been disallowed.
 
15. Verify the Indexed Content

James Parsons, expert in content marketing and SEO, explains in an article on AudienceBloom the crucial significance of the indexing phase for a website.

Indexed pages are those that are scoured by Google search engines for possible new content or for information it already knows about. Having a web page indexed is a critical part of a website’s Internet search engine ranking and web page content value.
James Parsons
Blogger at JamesParsons.com

Search Console can provide lots of insightful information regarding the status of your indexed pages.

The ideal situation would be that the number of indexed pages is the same as the total number of the pages within your website, except the ones you don’t want to be indexed. Verify if you’ve set up proper noindex tags. In case there is a big difference, review them and check for blocked resources. If that concluded with an OK message, then check if some of the pages weren’t crawled, therefore indexed.

 

In case you didn’t see something that was out of the ordinary, test your robots.txt file and check your sitemap. For that check the following steps (9 and 10).
 
16. Review Your Sitemap to Avoid Being Outdated

An XML Sitemap explains to Google how your website is organized.

Crawlers will read and understand how a website is structured in a more intelligible way. A good structure means better crawling. Use dynamic XML sitemaps for bigger sites. Don’t try to manually keep all in sync between robots.txt, meta robots, and the XML sitemaps.

Search Console comes to rescue once again. In the Crawl section, you can find the Sitemap report, where you can add, manage and test your sitemap file.

You have two options: test a new sitemap or test a previously added one. In the first case:

  •     Add the Sitemap;
  •     Enter the URL of the sitemap;
  •     Click on Test sitemap and then refresh the page if needed;
  •     When the test is completed, click Open Test Results to check for errors. Fix your errors;
  •     After you fix your errors, click Submit Sitemap.

In the second case, you can test an already submitted sitemap.

There are three things you need to do in the situation explained in the second situation.

  •     Update the Sitemap when new content is added to your site or once in a while;
  •     Clean it from time to time, eliminating outdated and bad content;
  •     Keep it shorter so that your important pages get crawled more frequently or break the sitemap into smaller parts. A sitemap file can’t contain more than 50,000 URLs and must not be larger than 50 MB uncompressed.

 Using a sitemap doesn’t guarantee that all the items in your sitemap will be crawled and indexed, as Google processes rely on complex algorithms to schedule crawling. However, in most cases, your site will benefit from having a sitemap, and you’ll never be penalized for having one.
Google
 

 
17. Review Blocked Resources (Hashbang URLs) with Fetch as Google

Hashbang URLs (URLs that have the #! in them) can be checked and tested in Fetch as Google now. John Mueller acknowledged that Google has the ability to fetch & render hashbang URL’s via the Search Console.

Google stopped supporting them on March 30, 2014, and that changed when it announced on October 14, 2015 that it deprecates their AJAX crawling system. At the moment hashbang URLs  can be tested.
 
18. Optimize Your Crawl Budget

The term “crawl budget” started to collect more value when Gary Illyes explained on January 16, 2017 how Google uses it.

Crawl budget means how many resources are allocated for crawling by a server or how many pages are crawled by the search engines in a specific period of time. Google says that there is nothing to worry if the pages tend to be crawled every day. The issues appear on bigger sites. It is very important to optimize your crawl budget.

 

Maria Cieślak, search engine optimization expert, explains in an article on DeepCrawl the importance of optimizing your crawl budget.

Google is crawling only a particular number of pages on your website, and may sort the URLs incorrectly (I mean differently than you wish). For example, the “About us” page (that doesn’t drive sales) can gain more hits than the category listings with the new products. Your aim is to present to Google the most relevant and fresh content.
Maria Cieślak
SEO Specialist at Elephate

 

The crawl limit rate comes into discussion, which limits the maximum fetching rate for a given site.

The actions recommended for optimizing the crawl budget are:

  1.     Check the soft 404s and fix them using a personalized message and a custom page;
  2.     Get rid of duplicate content to avoid wasting crawl budget;
  3.     Remove hacked pages;
  4.     Prevent indexation for low quality and spam content;
  5.     Keep your sitemap up to date;
  6.     Correct infinite space issues;

 
 19. Avoid Meta Refresh for Moving a Site

Since we’ve talked about the redirection plan for migrating a site, it is best to understand why Google doesn’t recommend using meta refresh for moving a website. There are three ways to define redirects:

  •     HTTP responses with a status code of 3xx;
  •     HTML redirections using the <meta> element;
  •     JavaScript redirections using the DOM.

Aseem Kishore, owner of Help Desk Geek.com, explains why it is better not to use this meta refresh technique:

Although not particularly dangerous, Meta Refreshes are often used by unscrupulous webpage programmers to draw you into a web page using one piece of content and then redirect you to another page with some other content. Referred to as a black hat technique, most of the major search engines are smart enough not to fall for this method of “cloaking” web content.
Aseem Kishore
Owner and Editor-in-Chief at Help Desk Geek.com

When possible, always try to use HTTP redirects, and don’t use a <meta> element. HTTP redirection is the preferred option, but sometimes the web developer doesn’t have control of the server or can’t control it. And they must use other methods. Although HTML redirection is one of them, Google strongly discourages web developers to use it.

If a developer uses the HTTP redirects and forgets the HTML redirects, they aren’t identical anymore and might end up in an infinite loop, which leads to other problems.

In case you want to move a site, Google guidelines recommend to follow the next steps:

  •     Read and understand the basic knowledge of moving a website;
  •     Prepare the new site and test it thoroughly;
  •     Prepare a URL mapping from the current URLs;
  •     Correctly configure the server to make the redirects to move the site;
  •     Monitor the traffic for old and URLs.

 
20. Use Redirect for Flash Site to the HTML Version

Creating a flash site without a redirect to the HTML version is a big SEO mistake. Flash content might have an appealing look, but just like JavaScript and AJAX, it is difficult to render. The crawler needs all the help it can get to crawl the data and send it to the indexer. The Flash site must have a redirect to the HTML version.
 
21. Use Hreflang for Multi-Language Websites

Hreflang tags are used for language and regional URLs. It is recommended to use the  rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” attributes to serve the correct language or regional URL in Search results in the next situations:

 

  •     You keep the main content in a single language and use translate the template (navigation and footer). Best used for user-generated content.
  •     You have small regional variations with similar content in a single language. For a website that uses the English language targeted to the US, GB, and Ireland.
  •     You have a site content that is fully translated. For websites where you have multiple language versions of each page.

Maile Ohye, former Developer Programs Tech Lead, explains how site owners can expand to new languages variations and keep the search engines friendly:  

Based on these options, you can apply multiple hreflang tags to a single URL. Make sure, though, the provided hreflang is valid:

  1.     It doesn’t have missing confirmation links: If page A links to page B, page B must link back to page A.
  2.     It doesn’t have incorrect language codes: The language codes must use them in ISO 639-1 format and optionally the region must be in ISO 3166-1 Alpha 2 format.

 
22. Make Sure Your Tracking Is Working Properly

Tracking your website is really important. Without tracking your results, you won’t be able to see any improvements.

Tracking issues are common after migrations from HTTP to HTTPS or after minifying and combining JS files. They can break the tracking code resulting in a loss of data.

    You need to make sure that everything is working properly so that you can track the results of the improvements you’re making over time.


 
III. Content Optimization

Now that you’ve fixed the general issues that can create crawlability and indexability issues, you can focus more on specific issues regarding your content, such as broken pages, internal linking and so on. This is very important if you really want to surpass your competition, especially in highly competitive markets.

23. Redirect/Replace Broken Links & Resources

Sometimes the images from a webpage aren’t available, so a broken image is displayed in the client’s browser. It can happen to everybody. There are lots of reasons for that. And it is not a pretty situation. You know the saying: A picture is worth a thousand words and a missing picture with an ugly icon with a message will say something as well…

A solution would be to add an error handler on the IMG tag:

<img src="http://www.example.com/broken_url.jpg"onerror="this.src='path_to_default_image'" />

Some webmasters say that Chrome and Firefox recognize when images aren’t loaded and log it to the console, while others have other opinions.

 

Sam Deering, web developer specialized in JavaScript & jQuery, offers some great steps to resolve these issues:

  •     Firstly, search for some information on the current images on page;
  •     Secondly, use AJAX to test if the image exists;
  •     Then refresh image;
  •     Fix broken images using AJAX;
  •     Check the Non-AJAX function version.

In most browsers, the ALT tag is shown if the image is not found. This could be a problem if the image is small and the ALT tag is long as it seems the output width of the element is not forced by the length of the alt tag.
    Sam Deering
Front-end Web Developer

 

This is also the case with broken URLs. Although nothing weird will be displayed on the site, if the user clicks on a broken link, it will lead to a bad experience.
 
24. Audit Internal Links to Improve Your Chances to Rank Higher

Internal links are the connection between your pages and, due to them, you can build a strong website architecture by spreading link juice, or link equity, as others refer to it.

Creating connections between similar pieces of content creates the terminology of Silo content. This method presumes to create groups of topics and content based on keywords and it defines a hierarchy.

There are a lot of advantages for building internal links because it:

  •     opens the road to search engines spiders by making it accessible;

    transfers link juice;

  •     improves user navigation and offers extra information to the user;
  •     organizes the pages based on the keyword used as an anchor text;
  •     highlights the most important pages and transfers this information to the search engines;
  •     organizes site architecture.

The more relevant pages are combined with each other when crawled repeatedly, and as the crawling frequency rises, so does the overall rank in search engines.
     Kasia Perzyńska
Content Marketer Unamo

 

When you audit internal links, there are four things that need to be checked:

  1.     Broken links;
  2.     Redirected links;
  3.     Click depth;
  4.     Orphan pages;

 
25. Get Rid of Duplicate Content

When we talk about technical SEO, we also think of duplicate content, which is a serious problem.

Keep unique and relevant title tags, descriptions within your website by looking into the Search Console.

In Search Console, you can find a list of all the duplicate content leading you to the pages that need improvement. Remove or review each element and craft other titles and meta descriptions. Google loves fresh and unique content. Panda algorithm confirms it.

Another option would be to apply the canonical tag to pages with duplicate content. The tag will show to the search engines which is the original source with your rel=canonical tag. Canonicalizing irrelevant URLs to avoid content duplication is a recommended practice.

 

Jayson DeMers, Founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, considers that duplicate content can affect your website and discourage search engines to rank your website and it can also lead to bad user experience, as he says on Forbes.  

Just a few instances of duplicate content can trigger Google to rank your site lower in search results, leaving you unable to recover until those content duplication issues are addressed. Duplicate content can also interfere with your user experience, leaving your site visitors feeling that your site is more fluff than substance.
     Jayson DeMers
 Founder & CEO of AudienceBloom

 

Fixing duplicate content issues is critical, especially for eCommerce websites where this practice/issue is common.
 
26. Use Structured Data to Highlight Your Content

Structured data is the way to make Google understand your content and help the user choose and get directly on the page they are interested in through rich search results. If a website uses structured markup data, Google might display it in SERP..

Beside rich snippets, structured data can be used for:

  •     Getting featured in the Knowledge graph;
  •     Gaining beta releases and having advantages in AMP, Google News, etc.;
  •     Helping Google offer results from your website based on contextual understanding

The language for structured data is schema.org. You can highlight your content using structured data. Schema.org helps webmasters mark up their pages in ways that can be understood by the major search engines.

If you want to get in rich search results your site’s page must use one of three supported formats:

  •     JSON-LD (recommended);
  •     Microdata;
  •     RDFa.

After you highlight your content using structured data, it is recommended to test it using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool. Testing it will give you great directions to see if you set it right or if you didn’t comply with Google’s guidelines because you can get penalized for spammy structured markup.

 

    Google doesn’t guarantee the appearance of each content highlighted using structured data markup.

 
27. Keep a Reasonable Number of Links On-Page

People from the web community often associate pages with 100 links or more with “link farms”. Also, UX has a significant impact on the number of links on a single page. A piece of content abundant of links will distract the users and fail to offer them any piece of information because most of it is linked. You need to add links only where you think it is relevant and it can offer extra information or you need to specify the source.

 

Patrick Sexton, Googlebot Whisperer, explains in an article on Varvy why it is important to keep a reasonable amount of links per page:

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