Wednesday, August 30, 2017

19 Technical SEO Mistakes - SEO Site Audit Checklist

SEO site audit checklist

Are you searching for a tool for professional SEO Audit for your website or blog ? Check this awesome tool and 19 Technical aspects you have to audit to boost your rankings.

You  have  to  regularly  check  your  site’s  health  and well-being,  but  performing  a  site  audit  can be  very stressful,  as  the  list  of  possible  troubles  your  site may  face  is  huge.  Going  through that  list  manually is a tedious chore, but luckily there is a tool that can sort out all of those issues for you.
The SEMrush Site Audit is a powerful instrument for checking  your  website’s  health.  With  fast crawling and  customizable  settings,  it  automatically  detects up to 60 issues, covering almost every website disorder possible. Along with this great tool you are going to need some knowledge under your belt for truly competent website analysis. 

CRAWLABILITY AND SITE ARCHITECTURE


First things first, there is no point in optimizing anything on your website if search engines can not see it. In order for a site to appear in a search engine like Google, it  should  be  crawled  and  indexed by  it.  Consequently,  the  website’s  crawlability and indexability are two of the most commonly unseen elements that can harm your SEO effort if not addressed.

To  foster  better  navigation  and  understanding  for  both  users  and  crawl  bots,  you need to build a well-organized site architecture. SEO-friendly here equals user-friendly, just as it should. To achieve that you need to streamline your website’s structure,  and  make  sure  that  valuable, converting  content  is  available  and  no  more than four clicks away from your homepage.

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ROBOTS.TXT


There are many reasons that can prevent search bots from  crawling.Robots.txt  can  block  Google  from crawling and indexing the whole site or specific pages. Although it is not crucial for a website’s well-being to have a robots.txt, it can increase a site’s crawling and  indexing  speed.  But  watch  out  for  mistakes,  as they can cause Google to ignore important pages of your  site  or  crawl  and  index  unnecessary  ones.

Despite the fact that building a robots file is not that hard, format errors are quite common: an empty user-agent  line,  the  wrong  syntax,  mismatched  directives, listing each file instead of shutting indexation for the whole directory or listing multiple directories in a single line.

Consider  a  robots.txt  as  a  guide  to  your  website  – by creating a simple file in txt format, you can lead bots  to  important  pages  by  hiding  those  that  are  of no significance to users and therefore crawlers.

We recommend  that  you  exclude  from  crawling  temporary pages and private pages that are only visible to certain users or administrators, as well as pages without valuable content. Although, robots.txt is never a strict directive but more of a suggestion, and sometimes bots can neglect it.



URL STRUCTURE


For an SEO specialist URL is more than just the address of a webpage. If left unattended, they can negatively  affect  indexing  and  ranking.  Crawlers  and  people alike will read URLs, so use relevant phrases in URLs to indicate what the page’s content is about.You can have the URL match the title, but know that search  bots  may  consider  underscores  in  URLs  as  part of a word, so it is better to use hyphens or dashes instead to refrain from mix-ups. Do not use capital letters unless you have a very good reason.  It  just  unnecessarily  complicates  readability for robots and humans.

While the domain part of a URL is not case sensitive, the path part might be, depending on the OS your server is running on. This will not affect rankings, because a search engine will figure out the page no matter what, but if a user mistypes a case sensitive URL or your server migrates,you may run into problems in the form of a 404 error.URL  structure  can  signal  the  page’s  importance  to search engines.

Generally  speaking,  the  higher  the page  is,  the  more  important  it  seems.  So  keep  the structure simple and put your prime content as close to the root folder as possible. Also keep in mind that having URLs that are too long or complex with many parameters  is  neither  user-  nor  SEO-friendly.  So,  although it is officially acceptable to have up to 2,048 characters in a URL, try to keep its length under 100 characters and trim down dynamic parameters when possible.

LINKS & REDIRECTS


Having links on your website is necessary for steering users and redistributing pages’ link juice. But broken links and 4xx and 5xx status codes can notably deteriorate user experience and your SEO efforts. Having too many links on a page as well makes it look spammy  and  unworthy  to  both  users  and  crawlers,  which  will  not  go  through  all  the  links anyway. Also keep in mind that mistakenly used nofollow attributes can be harmful, especially when applied to internal links. If you have broken external links, reach out to the website owners.

Carefully review your own links, replace or remove inoperative ones, and in the case of server errors, contact webhosting support. Another  concern  here  is  dealing  with  temporary  redirects.  They  seem  to  work  in  the  same manner as permanent ones on the surface, but when you use 302/307 redirects instead of a 301 redirect, search engine keeps the old page indexed and the pagerank does not transfer to the new one. Take into account that search bots may consider your website with WWW and without WWW as two separate domains.

So you need to set up 301 redirects to the preferred version and indicate it in Google Search Console.Redirect chains and loops will confuse crawlers and frustrate users with increased load speed. You also lose a bit of the original pagerank with each redirect. That is a big no-no for any website owner, however redirection mistakes tend to slip through the cracks and pile up, so you have to check linking on your website periodically.



SITEMAP


Submitting a sitemap to Google Search Console is a great way to help bots navigate your website faster and  get  updates  on  new  or  edited  content.  Almost every site contains some utilitarian pages that have no place in search index and the sitemap is a way of highlighting  the  landing  pages  you  want  to  end  up on the SERPs. Sitemap does not guarantee that the listed  pages  will  be  indexed,  and  those  that  are  not mentioned  will  be  ignored  by  search  engines,  but  it does make the indexing process easier.You  can  create  an  XML  sitemap  manually,  or  generate  one  using  a  CMS  or  a third-party  tool.Search  engines only accept sitemaps that are less than 50 MB and contain less than 50,000 links, so if you have a large website, you might need to create additional sitemaps .
Obviously there should not be any broken pages, redirects  or  misspelled  links  in  your  sitemap.  Listing pages that are not linked to internally on your site is a bad practice as well. If there are multiple pages with the same content, you should leave only the canonical one in sitemap. Do not add links to your sitemap that are blocked with the robots file, as this would be like telling a searchbot to simultaneously crawl and not crawl the page. But do remember to add a link to your sitemap to robots.txt.


ON-PAGE SEO


On-page SEO is about improving the rankings of specific pages by optimizing their content and HTML behind them. You need to fastidiously craft all the ingredients of a page in order to earn more relevant traffic. Great written and visual content combined with the perfect backstage work leads to user satisfaction and search engine recognition. It is also fair to say that well-executed on-page optimization is a legitimate path to the off-page success of your website. Using strong content as a basis for link building will take less effort to reach excellent results. And the best part is that all those elements are in the palm of your hand – you can always adjust content displayed on the page and meta tags concealed in the code.


CONTENT


It is well known that good SEO means good content. Rehashed  or  even  copied  content  is  rarely  valuable to users and can significantly affect rankings. So you have  to  inspect  your  website  for  identical  or  nearly  identical  pages  and  remove  or  replace  them  with  unique ones. We advocate that pages have at least 85% unique content.

 If  under  certain  circumstances  duplicate  content  is appropriate,  in  order  to  avoid  cannibalization  (multiple  pages  targeting  the  same  keywords)  you  have to  indicate  secondary  pages  with  a  rel=”canonical”  tag  that  links  to  the  main  one.  It  is  a  common  distress of the e-commerce portals where product pages  and  variously  sorted  lists  of  products  appear  as duplicates. And sometimes when a URL has parameters, it might get indexed as a separate page, thus creating a duplicate.

To prevent that from happening, you need to add a self-referential canonical tag that directs to the clean version of the URL .
Another important issue is your pages’ word count.Long-form  content  tends  to  have  more  value,  and generally we recommend putting at least 200 words on a page. But obviously not every page needs a lot of text, so use common sense and do not create content just for the sake of content. A low text-to-HTML ratio can also indicate a poor-quality page.

Our advice here is that a page should contain more than 10% of the actually displayed text in relation to the code.

But again, if you think that a low word count is acceptable for a specific page, then no worries. But be cautious if this issue is triggered on a page with a lot of content. While having excessive HTML code is not critical, you should try streamlining it to contribute to faster loading and crawling speed.

TITLE TAG


The importance of your title tag is pretty obvious – generally it is the first impression you will make on a person browsing the search engine results page. So you need to create captivating, but more importantly,individual meta titles for every page to orient searchers and crawlers. Duplicated titles can confuse users as to which webpage they should follow.

 Make  your  title  tags  concise.  Brevity  is  the  soul  of wit and all, but in particular, you need to do this because titles that are too long might get automatically cropped.  However,  you  should  recognize  that  short titles  are  usually  uninformative  and  rob  you  off  the opportunity to inject more delicious wordage to lure customers.

To  keep  your  title  tags  balanced,  you should  typically  strive  for  about  50-60  characters. However, the space allotted for titles on results page but it is actually about pixels these days, so keep an eye out for wide letters like “W.”

After you have written a perfect, simple and descriptive  title,  you  still  need  to  watch  out  for  Google’s  reaction, since it might not find your masterpiece relevant to the page or the query, and completely rewrite it.  There  is  also  a  chance  that  Google  will  add  your brand name to the title, casually cutting off its ending.

H1 TAG


A website’s H1 heading is less important than its title tag,  but  it  still  helps  crawlers  and  users,  and  stands out visually on a page. The H1 and the title tag can be identical, which is acceptable from a technical standpoint but not a good SEO practice.

When your H1 and title are the same you are missing the chance to diversify semantics with varied phrases and it makes your page look overly optimised. Give some thought to your H1s – make them catchy, yet simple and relevant. Search bots use H1 to get a hint as to what is your page about, so do not distract them by putting multiple H1s on a single page, instead use an H2-H6 hierarchy for descending subsections.

These subheadings are  far  less  important  than  the  H1  and  are  placed mostly for users rather than crawlers. Structured text is  better  at  holding  readers’  attention,  and  a  clear layout ensures easier information consumption and,creates an overall better user experience. So create scannable  content,  and  make  sure  that  your headings  and  subheadings  correlate  with  the  topic  of  a  page and its sections.


META DESCRIPTION


If your page’s title tag is the proverbial book cover that it is judged upon in the search results, then your meta description is the back cover that sells it for a click. Of course, a missing meta description will not affect your rankings – Google will make one up for you. But the  result  will  probably  not be  the  most  relevant  or flashy, which may, in turn lower your potential CTR.

Although,  on  many  occasions,  it  might  be  inconvenient and unnecessary to come up with a unique description for each page. In that case you should concentrate  on  the  most  important  landings  and  leave all the rest with auto-generated. Creating  a  loud-and-clear  summary  of  a  page  is  an art,  but  keep  in  mind  that  having  copy-pasted  meta descriptions is worse than not having any. Duplicates might  obstruct  a  crawler’s  ability  to  distinguish  the relevance and priority of a page.


IMAGES


Image searches are nothing new, and while top ranks in an image SERP can bring a chunk of a target audience  to  your  website,  image  SEO  is  still  neglected by some website owners. We will talk more about image optimization in the following section on page speed. For now let’s look solely at the SEO aspects of an image; which are its alt attribute and its availability.

Seeing appealing and informative images on a website is awesome, but broken links and no longer existent sources can spoil all the fun. Plus, Google  may  decide  that  your  page  is  poorly  coded  and maintained if it contains broken images.

You need to regularly inspect your site for such occurrences and reinstate or erase faulty elements, especially if your imagery is doing the selling. With missing pictures it is hard to reach an audience for clothing shops, food delivery, hotels, etc.

An alt attribute should give a clear depiction of a picture, and while it is an opportunity to add more keywords to a page, beware of keyword stuffing. Keep the alt attribute simple and accurate to what is seen in  the  image.

Another  tip  many  website  owners  do  not know is that the file name of an image also matters, since search engines will read it when crawling a page. Try to give your files relevant names and create descriptive alt attributes, because besides helping you rank in image searches, it will also greatly aid visually impaired people.

TECHNICAL SEO


Technical  SEO  deals  with  things  apart  from  content  that  affect  user  experience and rankings. This include a slow page loading speed, utilization of outdated technologies and inadequate optimization for mobile devices.

These are aspects of a website audit that you need to pay extra attention to, because poor page performance can bring to naught all the good SEO work that you have done. On the other hand, the outcome of fixing technical issues can be highly rewarding.

Most technical mistakes have a site-wide nature, so fixing them usually benefits not only a single page but the whole website as well. Oftentimes just a little tweaking can drastically increase your traffic and save you a lot of money.

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PAGE SPEED


Page speed is a big ranking factor affected both by the server side and page performance. And it is a big bounce  rate  cultivator  for  obvious  reasons.  So  you need  to  optimize  HTML,  reduce  scripts  and  styles, and try to keep page size to a minimum. One way to achieve this is using compression schemes like gzip or deflate. Condensing HTML, CSS and Javascript can greatly benefit load speed, but there are drawbacks  of  complicated  set  up  and  issues  with  older  browsers.Images usually take up the most weight on a page, so optimizing  them  is  essential  for  increasing  a  page’s  speed.


There is a lot to contemplate – image quality and resolution, its format and more, but before looking at all that, you have to consider if visual content is actually necessary for your page. If the answer is yes, then fine-tune your images using a graphic design tool of your choice. Try to achieve the smallest filesize you can while maintaining acceptable image quality.

 Examine the possibility of using vector graphics. It is a great way to slim down simple geometrical images. If a large image file is not absolutely necessary to the message of the page, then you can consider removing it to improve page speed.

Lastly, since mobile page speed is even more important, you have to configure viewport and rescale images for different screens.

OLD TECHNOLOGY


Evolution of the Internet never stops. And just as some species  become  extinct  for  others  to  thrive,  some technologies  have  to  go  for  the  sake  of  progress. The death of Flash was a long time coming, and for good  reason.

From  an  SEO  perspective  (although  it might give a more vibrant look to your website) Flash impoverishes a page’s performance, and handicaps crawling.

Adobe announced that it will stop supporting its technology by the end of 2020.As  for  installing  widgets  and  plugins  from  external domains with IFrames – they can come in handy and will not affect your rankings if implemented properly, but can also hurt your website’s usability and complicate its indexing.

 For a browser to understand how to properly render the  content,  you  should  always  specify  which  version of HTML or XHTML a page is written in with the <!DOCTYPE> tag. Give it special attention if you are using an older version of a code.

MOBILE


We  are  all optimizing  for  mobile  devices,  right?  So checking that all your pages have viewport tags and can  scale  for  various  screen  sizes  is  imperative.  If a  page  does  not  have  a  viewport  meta  tag,  mobile browsers will not be able to find the optimized version  of  the  page  and  will  show  the  desktop  version with the font too small or too big for the screen and all the images jumbled.

There are no two ways about it – this will scare away all your visitors and will worsen  your  rankings,  especially  considering  Google’s concept of mobile-first indexing.Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are a good way for publishers to serve fast-loading content from a search engine  results  page.

If  you  have  an  AMP  version  of your  page,  make  sure  it  has  a  canonical  tag,  and  is referenced  on  the  non-AMP  version.  That  way  you will  avoid  duplicate  content  issues.  If  you  only  have an AMP page, add a self-referential canonical tag


HTTPS IMPLEMENTATION


HTTPS  is  a  necessity  for  every  website.  You  have  to  protect  yourself  and  your users from those pesky, malicious people on the Internet by ensuring that all the data transferred through your website is authentic, encrypted and intact. And of course there is a perk of Google’s favouritism toward secured pages.HTTPS is a ranking factor which will become more and more considerable in the future, because safety issues have no expiration date. But behind all those security benefits there are also quite a lot of risks associated with moving your site to HTTPS and maintaining a secured protocol.


When shifting your website to the secured protocol, you can come up against multiple mistakes.Beware of missing redirects and canonicals to HTTPS URLs, as  these  can  lead  to  lower  rankings  and  cannibalization. Use a 301 redirect or rel=”canonical” on the HTTP version to indicate that your primary version is on HTTPS now.

Mind all the elements of a page, and only  add  HTTPS  content  to  HTTPS  pages  to  ward off security and UX issues. And remember to update your  website  internal  linking  and  your  sitemap  with  HTTPS URLs.Keep an eye on your SSL certificate – it should be up to  date,  valid,  and  registered  to  the  correct  domain or your users will get upsetting notifications, which will certainly increase bounce rate.

 It is recommended that you implement HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) to force your user’s browsers to only use secure connections. Also, it is good to have a server  supporting  SNI  (Server  Name  Indication)  so  that there would be a possibility to use multiple certificates at the same IP address.



INTERNATIONAL SEO


The Internet makes the world small, globalization never stops, and international SEO  is  becoming  more  relevant  than  ever.  Creating  sites  in  more  than  one  language is not a prerogative of big corporations, and smaller web portals can also gain a lot by geographic expansion.

Maintaining a multilingual website creates a specific set of potential problems. It is hard enough to get the hreflang attribute right so that your audiences in different locations will get the version of your page with the correct language.

Besides that,you also need to signal to the search engine which results should be provided for which users and explain it that you are not just scattering duplicates around.

When configuring a multilingual website, you first need to specify the correct language and country codes for matching pages. Language code should precede and be separated with a  hyphen  from  a  country  code.

Remember that  you  can  designate  a  language  without a country, but not the other way around. It is also  important  to declare  encoding so  that browsers will know which set of characters must be used.The main SEO problems of an international website  are  duplicates  and  redirects.

Adding rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” tags will help Google figure out which version of a page to show based on a user’s location. Watch out for broken or conflicting URLs, and make sure

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