This post was originally published on State of Digital.
Technical SEO continues to be one of the most valuable stages in any SEO campaign. Ensuring that the technical foundations are laid provides you with the ability to become more creative with content.
In this post, I have provided 17 tools that you can use to during different areas of technical SEO.
You, Pen & Paper
Tools are great, but you are better! Tools allow you to get an understanding of any technical issues quickly but it still requires brain power to analyse what has been identified. Therefore, whilst you are running a crawl of the website using your preferred crawling tool, you should also give it a visual inspection. This part of the process is one that is often missed as we rely on tools to do all of the heavy lifting for us.
During your visual review you should be manually checking each template and the source code for the following items making notes as you go:
- Title Tags
- Meta Tags including description and directives such as the rel=canonical and robots tag.
- Heading structure
- How layered navigation is managed
- Pagination management
- www vs non-www.
- Checking canonicalisation issues
Once you have conducted your review you can see if they have been verified through the use of tools.
Crawler of choice
Running a crawl of the website is one of, if not the most important part of any technical SEO feature. Using tools such as those highlighted below will provide you with lots of information with regards to the current state of the website.
Once the crawl has completed, the first step is to export the data into a spreadsheet so that it can be analysed fully. It is at this point that I generally export by section such as response codes, Images, Directives, Protocol etc. This allows me to dive into any issues with a specific set of data rather than having to filter the entire crawl.
Google Search Console (GWT)
Recently named Google Search Console, this tool provides you the information that Google can see and is willing to show you. To conduct through technical SEO checks it is essential that you get access to Google Search Console, and if it is not available then make sure that you implement it.
Once you have access, it is key to identify any significant issues that have been highlighted, and from a technical point of view they are likely to be found in the following three areas:
- Google Index
Under the Google Index section of Google Search Console, you will find a number of options including Index Status and Remove URLs. These two options provide you with with the current indexation figures, and what URLs have been removed. If you compare these stats against the number of your pages or the number of pages within your XML sitemap you can start to identify whether you are suffering from duplicate content issues.
Here is where Google gives you insight into the state of current websites in terms of errors identified, how often your website is crawled, how your sitemap is performing and whether there are any errors and where you can handle your URL parameters.
- Search Appearance
Within Search Appearance you will be able to compare the number of missing and duplicate title and metas with what you found within your crawl. You can also identify any issues with the structured data that may be available on the current website.
Page Speed Tool
As consumers are constantly switching between devices, page speed has become more important not only from a rankings perspective but also from a usability point of view.
Google currently state that if your website / page does not fully load within 1 – 2 seconds then it is below average. This is supported by users hitting the back button if the website is not visible almost instantly, this is also true for mobile devices where users expect the website to load quickly even if they are on a 3G connection.
There are many ways in which you can speed up your website including image optimisation, minifying code (JS, CSS, HTML) and enabling compression. These issues can be identified using one of the following tools:
This doesn’t happen very often for one reason or another, but it can be an important part of conducting a technical SEO. If your website has taken a hit in visibility or traffic/conversions, you may be able to track it back to a technical change.
One way to keep on-top of the technical changes is to add an annotation to your analytics package. This is a very simple process when using Google Analytics and can be shared with everyone that has access to the project. Further to adding information about technical changes, annotations can, and in my opinion should be used to keep a record of any marketing activities (PR, email, campaigns) as well as tracking any confirmed algorithm updates.
By tracking these activities it will be easier to identify what has either helped or hindered your website over a period of time.
Structured data has become a larger part of the technical process over the past few years, however, there are still a large number of websites that have not implemented any markup.
Those that are early adopters to structured data are seeing the benefits of increased click through rates and conversions. Implementing the correct markup for your website doesn’t have to be that difficult, with the following tools allowing you identify, create and test your specific markup.
Surprisingly missing XML sitemaps are a common theme in technical SEO especially audits, yet it is one of the most basic features to implement.
At the most basic level you should implement a manual XML sitemap that has been created and uploaded to the server by yourself. If you can, and it is advised implement a feature to automate the creation of the XML sitemap and publication to the root for search engines to be able to access it.
Two following tools will allow you to create either a manual or automated sitemap, whilst the other two will allow you to validate the XML sitemap that you currently have. you can also
These are just some of the tools that are available to be used during the technical SEO phase. What tools do you use for technical SEO? I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments below or over on twitter @danielbianchini.
[Image Credit: Flickr – OZinOH]