Last month we brought you the first part of our Beginner’s Guide To Performing A Technical SEO Audit. In part one we covered Data Capture, Data Analysis & the importance of cleaning up any Technical SEO errors such as 404s and outdated Sitemaps.
In part two, we’re moving onto On-Page SEO Element, such as Page Titles & Descriptions, Heading Tags, Alt Tags & URLs.
On-Page SEO is vitally important to any SEO campaign: for our clients it’s one of the first elements we look at, as we know the positive impact that strong on-page SEO can have on rankings and ultimately traffic.
A page title is used to describe the content of a page. It’s the first thing that appears in search results, and is what users see, so it should always be unique and not duplicated.
Page titles are a strong ranking factor for Google, so it’s important to ensure each page has one and that it contains relevant keywords to the page content.
Make sure your important keywords are at the start of the title and then place your company name at the end, but ensure that the page title is short enough to fit within the search results, which is about 55 characters, but this depends on the letters and spacings used.
A meta description is what appears below the title in the search results. This is not a ranking signal specifically for Google, but it does affect clickthroughs, as this area is used to encourage people to click the link by briefly describing the content of a page.
Like page titles above, make sure every page contains one, and that each meta description is unique and relevant.
Header tags are used as a headline of a page to describe the content and are used as ranking signals by Search Engines. They look like this within the HTML source code of a page.
Each page should contain a H1, which is the most important, and should ideally contain relevant keywords. This should be placed at the top of the text content and should be the first heading visible, followed by any h2 or h3 headings you may want on the page.
As well as seeing the current ones used, you can use the Screaming Frog to see any missing page titles or meta descriptions by clicking on the title field, which will arrange all the pages missing titles to the top, and then group duplicated ones together further down. This can then be done for the meta descriptions as well as the headings which are explained below.
All websites use images to entice and explain content to users but unfortunately search engines can’t see them, and that includes any text within them.
Therefore we need to make sure that we explain to Google what these images represent and we achieve this by using the ‘alt’ tag.
Every image should have a relevant alt tag and the text within it should describe the image and where possible contain targeted keywords. If an image is missing an alt tag, it’s a wasted opportunity to further describe to Google your important keywords.
For a view of all the images that don’t contain an alt tag in your site, you can generate a helpful report through Screaming Frog by going to Bulk Export > Images > Images Missing Alt Text
Search engines want to give users the most relevant content, and your page URLS are a strong ranking signal. The key thing to remember is to make sure your URLs are readable and clear, and ensure that they are made up of keywords which describe your page. By doing this you are helping your users to see that the page is relevant, and also showing search engines more about the content of the page. For example:
On the other hand, if the URL contains parameters or a random string of characters, this doesn’t help search engines or users to indicate what the page is about, and it is harder to remember. For example:
The structure of your URL is also important. You should always make sure that the URLs feature hyphens rather than underscores, as Google prefers these, and any letters should always be in lowercase. If you mix between URLs this can create duplicate content issues, as Google will view the below as different URLs:
It should be easy to see from your crawl data whether there are any obvious issues with the URLs; whether they are search friendly, using underscores instead of hyphens, or have a mixture of upper and lower case letters.
Duplicate Content & Canonical Tags
Earlier in the process when we looked at how many pages are indexed, you may have found a higher number of indexed pages than what you have seen in your crawl or sitemap. Sometimes this is due to parameters within your URLs causing issues, or a page being accessible by multiple URLs. For example, we’ve seen instances where a link on a company logo points to the home page using /index.html rather than the root URL of the site. This results in two URLs indexed for the homepage: the website root and /index.html
Although it’s the same page, because it is accessible as two different URLs, in search engines’ eyes it is two different pages with duplicate content.
To get around this, it’s best to make sure your site is using canonical tags, which specify the correct version of the page to index, incase instances like the above occur. That way if a search engine landed on /index.html and the canonical tag specified the website root, it would know to ignore it and just index the root homepage.
The canonical tag is just a piece of HTML that goes within your tags in the format:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.ricemedia.co.uk” />
If your site already has them, it’s best to double check that they are correct and in the right format.
Screaming Frog will list any canonical tags for every URL crawled and it will easily show whether your site has them. There is also a canonical tag error report available under Reports > Canonical Errors, which will highlight any glaring issues.
Once you have these on-page elements within best practice guidelines, you’re at the start of the road to SEO success. Whilst SEO is not all about Technical Health and on-page elements, these play a vital role in any SEO strategy.
Should you require further advice regarding the Technical SEO Health of your website then please talk to us.