Boost SEO and bring your website to the next level by implementing technical SEO improvements and best practices. Even if you have a wealth of content that resonates with users, evidenced by great page views, pages/session, and average time on page metrics, you’ll still want to be sure your website is set up for SEO success with technical considerations in mind.
The main focus of a SEO audit is to look for technical issues that could be affecting your website’s search rankings. At Zelolab, we don’t believe in any SEO “tricks” or “hacks”. At the end of the day Google is using their market presence in Google Analytics and Google Chrome to see where real people are going and where they are spending their time—this is the biggest signal of quality for them.
Our philosophy when it comes to SEO is three pronged:
- Have great content that people want to engage with,
- Make sure it is easy for Google (and other bots) to find and index that content, and
- Ensure that users have a good experience while on the page.
We’ll assume you have #1 covered. Here, we outline technical SEO improvements that can be made to #2 and #3, with a focus on Crawlability, Indexability, and Page Speed.
Crawlability SEO Improvements
Google will typically start on your home page, looking for links and following them until it can’t find any new links. We use a plugin called Checkbot to emulate this recursive crawling and see what urls are found.
404 Not Found
Ensuring you are not pointing at 404s is one of the best ways to show Google’s bots that your content is up-to-date and accurate. Fixing any links that are pointing at 404s should be a top priority.
404s can start showing up for many reasons. Most often, you’ll see 404s after a site migration where urls were not properly forwarded. Simply changing the permalink of a post without providing a forwarder will also cause a 404. Even in a perfect world where there are no 404 links within your website, every link that has ever been published has a chance of being bookmarked by a user, or linked to from a different site. Care should be taken to always forward URLs to new equivalent pages if content is removed.
The best way to handle 404s is to set up a plugin to automatically create forwarders when content changes permalinks, and to log all 404s. We recommend the plugin “Redirection” for this task. With “Redirection” you can log 404s, and quickly create forwarders for them. When configured correctly, changes to post and page permalinks will automatically generate forwarders.
404s logged in “Redirection”
Proper configuration of the “Redirection” plugin.
Fixing redirects is not nearly as high a priority as fixing 404s because Google can still follow the redirect chain to the final destination, and will update their indexes accordingly. However, it is still a good idea because by linking to the last link in a redirect chain, you can save your users additional page load time. Focusing on links that appear on all or most pages such as ones that may appear in the footer, header, or sidebars is a great start.
Audit Your Link Statuses
Audit all of the links your website points to and see both internal links and external links at a glance. View their url, text, and status to find and fix broken links, audit redirects, HTTP statuses, and more.
Indexability SEO Improvements
Image Alternative Text
Providing Alternative (Alt) text on images is very important, not only for Google’s indexability, but for improving accessibility to screen readers. Both Google’s bots and screen readers will step through a page’s content and read (or index) the content. If an image doesn’t have descriptive text it will usually be skipped by a screen reader, which might be fine depending on the context. The w3.org has some great guidelines as to when to put in alt text on an image.
For WordPress users: When you need to put in alt text, you can add it as meta data on the media file within your WordPress backend. Most themes will then use this text when putting the image within your page content.
WordPress Media Editor, with Alt Text Field
It is important to provide proper meta tags for title and description. This not only helps Google with a first pass at what is on the page, but along with og:image fields, will populate information on many different sites when users share the link. Slack, Facebook, Twitter and more will use these meta tags.
For WordPress users: The Yoast plugin will allow you to set a default og:image and description which helps in the event that one is not set on the page. However, all pages should have unique titles, descriptions and og:images if possible. Within a page or post editor you will see a panel for Yoast SEO, under the Social Tab you can add a “Facebook image”. This is all you need to do as the rest of the social networks will use this image as well.
Missing Facebook image on a page editor
You can use a tool like our Social & Search Previews Tool to see how a given url will look on various social networks, and ensure that you have an appropriate title, description, and og:image.
Preview Before You Share!
Preview how your webpage will be displayed when shared on Twitter, Facebook, Slack, and LinkedIn. Plus, view your raw tags and see how your page preview will show up in Google Search.
A sitemap file is the quickest way for you to audit which pages are public on your site. It’s also the easiest way for bots to crawl your entire site efficiently. You can point to your sitemap from within Google Search Console settings. This should improve how often Google will crawl your site.
For WordPress users: A sitemap is automatically created for you if you use the Yoast plugin. You can adjust which content types are visible in the sitemap.xml from the Yoast “Search Appearance” settings. Then, visit the sitemap.xml file to make sure that the only links that show up in the sitemap are ones you want Google to know about.
Page Speed SEO Improvements
Page speed is increasingly being used by Google to factor into search rankings. The faster your site loads, the better. Google uses a combination of real world and lab data to check how fast your page is loading.
For a quick overview of how your site is doing with regards to speed, you can open up the Google Search Console Page Experience report. This report gives you an overview of what percent of URLs they mark as a “good experience” for the user who clicked through from Google Search.
The second part of the Page Speed Insights Report does a simulated page load. This gives you all kinds of details and suggestions of improvements. The simulated environment is showing a much lower performance rating than the real world results. But any improvements to the simulated environment will also improve the real world user experience and speed.
Audit your page speed and performance.
See Google Lighthouse’s Performance Audit desktop and mobile scores at a glance. View Performance, Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO scores.
Images are always going to be the largest files that a website sends to a user. This is an area where major improvements can be made. It is always important to consider if an image is even necessary. The improvements that Google is identifying are to improve the experience of the image that you are already using.
In simple terms, they are suggesting to use new image file formats, don’t load images that can’t be seen “above the fold” right away, and to only give users the correct image sizes for their screen size. Using the correct sizes is something that usually needs to be built during theme development. It may be tricky to follow this rule depending on how your website was set up.
For WordPress users: There is a free plugin called “Jetpack” that will swap all of your images for next gen formats. This happens automatically for browsers that support them, as well as lazy-load images that are off screen. Simply installing Jetpack and configuring it to serve your images will greatly speed up your site for your users. Plus, it will improve Google’s PageSpeed Insights assessments. This ensures that your website stays “passing” for Google Search Console’s Page experience report.
Excessive Plugins (For WordPress users)
There is one major improvement that can be made for page speed. That is to ensure that you do not have any plugins installed that you are no longer using.
Most plugins are configured to load on every page, even if their functionality is not being used. Woocommerce and various Woocommerce plugins are particularly bloated. If you have a website that isn’t utilizing WooCommerce’s ecommerce functionality, deactivate those plugins.
Any new plugins must always be carefully considered against their cost to overall page speed.
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