Recommended Quarterly Tech SEO Tasks
April 24, 2019
The technical side of search engine optimization matters to all websites. Big or small, local or national or international, B2B or B2C. No matter the type of business or vertical you are in, if you want organic traffic coming to your website, you need to make sure that Google’s bots can understand your website.
Our recommendation at Elementive is to check technical factors on a regular basis through a SEO website audit. We would recommend performing a SEO website audit at least once every quarter, though busier websites can benefit from monthly or weekly checks too. By regularly auditing your website’s performance, you’ll know your website is in its best possible shape and that a server upgrade or WordPress update didn’t derail your search engine marketing efforts. Below are the top five technical factors that you need to check at least every quarter.
What is Tech SEO?
Tech SEO is the ongoing process of optimizing a website’s code and server configuration to better communicate with search engine robots. The goal is to help the website earn higher rankings in organic search results and drive more visitors to the website from those results. Read Tech SEO Guide to learn more about what tech SEO is and to address technical issues on your website.
Task #1: Find & Fix 404 Not-Found Errors
As you update content, change images, or remove old pages, you’ll inevitably create 404 or not-found errors. As well, Google will occasionally find bad links referencing pages on your website. While a few 404s won’t hurt your SEO performance, a lot can. So, the best practice is to routinely identify and address the errors.
There are a few ways to identify not-found errors, though one of the easiest is using Google Search Console. Under Coverage, select Excluded, and then scroll down to see if there are any not-found pages listed. If so, click this to see the full list of errors Googlebot has found related to your site.
PRO TIP: Review Soft 404s and fix those with every Tech SEO website audit. Learn more about what soft 404s are.
Task #2: Remove & Revise Low-Quality Content
You don’t want bad content to ruin good SEO. Content management systems produce a lot of automated pages that serve little to no value to users or search engine robots, including tag and category pages. Of course, it isn’t just automated systems that do this—perhaps you created a lot of placeholder pages that ultimately never grew how you expected. Each quarter, take time during your Tech SEO website audit to actively seek out this type of low-quality content out and prune it.
But it isn’t just about removing the low-quality content. You’ll likely have older and outdated content on your website that has outlived its value and purpose. Removal might be the right option, but with a revision to the old material, you can make those pages valuable again. So, each quarter, don’t only focus on what low-quality content to remove, but what you can revise as well.
PRO TIP: As you review your content, also seek out any duplicate content—especially duplicate content that could appear spammy or manipulative.
Task #3: Address Errors in XML Sitemap
XML sitemaps are often neglected—once setup to run automatically, many webmasters and SEOs never think about them again. Yet, improving the quality of the XML sitemap can have noticeable impact on Google’s ability to crawl the website and, by extension, a noticeable impact on your website’s performance in Google search results.
To make XML sitemaps as useful as possible, the pages listed in the XML sitemap need to be valid pages that a search engine could potentially index. Each quarter, check to make sure your XML sitemap does not list URLs to pages that:
- Redirect somewhere else
- Return an error message
- Are duplicates (or near duplicates) of other pages
- Contain low-quality or thin content
- Contain noindex or disallow commands
- Should otherwise not be crawled or indexed
PRO TIP: To help identify issues in your XML sitemap, go to the Sitemaps area in Google Search Console and check to see what, if any, errors Google has identified on the sitemap.
Task #4: Test & Optimize Website Speed
Over the last three months has your website’s load time gotten faster, slower, or remained the same? Each quarter test the speed of your website’s top pages including the speed metrics embedded in Google’s Core Web Vitals. It can be helpful to record the load times each quarter so that you can compare to prior speed tests. When testing speed, remember that it isn’t all about you. You also want to test the speeds of key competitor’s websites to make sure you aren’t just fast but that you are faster than everybody else in your industry.
After you’ve run your speed tests, where do you have room to improve? Using a tool like Web Page Test, you can see all your key speed metrics, including the Core Web Vitals metrics.
For total load time, it is helpful to review the waterfall view under details. The waterfall view lists all the elements that loaded on your website. The longer the line in the waterfall, the bigger that item’s impact on speed. Those long line items are where you need to focus to get your website loading faster.
For Core Web Vitals, you should review the scores in the summary table. Green means your page is good, yellow means your page needs improvement and red means your page is poor. Learn more about improving your Core Web Vitals here.
If you work to improve the speed on a few pages each quarter, your website will steadily speed up.
PRO TIP: Test the speed of all pages on desktop and mobile devices. There is a big difference in load time between 4G, Cable, and DSL connections.
Task #5: Clean up Canonicals, Internal Links, and Redirects
It is important that your website sends consistent signals to Googlebot (and to your human visitors too). Part of that consistency comes from making sure that all the links Google sees when crawling through your website tell the same story. There are three main areas you want to make sure are consistent:
- Internal links – if the navigation link to your about page is /about-us/, but the actual about page URL is /about/, this sends mixed signals. It doesn’t matter if /about-us/ redirects to /about/ because you are still telling Google that there are two different URLs present, causing potential confusion. So, each quarter, check your navigation and other internal links to make sure all the links are accurately reflecting your website.
- Canonicals – a canonical tag tells Google what the official URL for a page is. If your canonical says the official URL is /my-product-gallery/ but all the internal links point to /our-products/, that mismatch can cause confusion that can hold back your SEO performance. Each quarter, double check that the canonical tags contain the correct URLs.
- Redirects – if you are routinely fixing 404s, chances are you’ll have a lot of redirects on your website. There is nothing wrong with having lots of redirects, but it is a problem if redirects are incorrect. Let’s say you have a redirect from /contact-us/ to /contact/, but recently you changed from /contact/ to /contact-our-support-team/. In that case, you’d want to update the original redirect to go from /contact-us/ to /contact-our-support-team/.
PRO TIP: Check external links, social profiles, and local profile for inconsistencies in URLs. These external sources are just as (if not more) important in helping Google understand your website.
Technical SEO is complex, but it doesn’t have to be challenging. By routinely performing Tech SEO website audits and improving the technical structure of your website, you’ll help avoid major complications and reduce your chances of being penalized. If you need help with improving and optimizing your tech SEO performance, please contact me for a one-on-one consultation or to enhance your understanding on tech SEO website audits, order a copy of my book, Tech SEO Guide.