Getting pages to rank well on search engines such as Google is amongst the most important considerations for marketing your website. That’s why search engine optimisation (SEO) is so critical, but what’s the ‘secret sauce’ of a search engine like Google?
The good news is that on-site and off-site optimisation tips and tricks are proven to work; the bad news is that the exact reasons for why a page is (or isn’t) ranking well won’t be made clear by Google anytime soon. This is where technical SEO tools come in handy.
Technical SEO Tools
What is technical SEO, anyway? Having a website up and running is one thing, but how well are search engines able to crawl and index the domain? Technical SEO aims to iron out problems that your website may have in being indexed, crawled, and interpreted by search engines and to optimise your website so that the on-site and off-site optimisation can then rank it better.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that can help you perform a technical SEO analysis for free and in quite a bit of detail. Here are a few top picks for technical SEO tools:
1. Google – Webmaster Tools
As the biggest search engine by a wide margin with over 70% of market share, Google provides users with plenty of resources to boost website performance. It makes sense, too. They stand to benefit from quality content on reputable websites; users benefit in turn by improving their page rankings in Google queries.
Google Webmasters Tool provides a wealth of detailed information that may seem overwhelming at first, but nevertheless useful to anyone looking to fine-tune their SEO for better page rankings. Furthermore, this tool does an excellent job of verifying the Robots.txt file across your website to ensure that pages are indeed being indexed by Google. 404 errors and other potentially major flaws in your website can also be identified and rectified.
2. Google – Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool
Google wants to know: “Is your website mobile-friendly?” In the past decade, mobile use has soared to over 40% of total devices accessing Google. Naturally, Google has taken initiatives in 2015 to essentially reward websites that are mobile-friendly, so it’s worth having a website that’s optimised not only for desktops/laptops but also for smaller devices such as tablets and smartphones.
This is where their Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool comes in handy. Find out if your website is mobile-friendly and how responsive it is when accessed via mobile and optimise as necessary. Start by inserting the domain name and let Google do the rest. The results in the left pane will show an overall grade of how well the website performs as well as quick tips to remedy any problems that may be present.
Google provides helpful links to correcting any errors conveniently underneath any highlighted errors, so you shouldn’t need to look far to solve the problem. The right pane shows a sample of what the website looks like on a smartphone, but other technical SEO tools do a better job of accurately displaying your website across a range of mobile devices.
3. Google – PageSpeed Insights
How long does your website take to load? In today’s day and age, most people simply won’t wait more than a few seconds for a website to load. Google Page Speed Insights helps users find out how fast their website loads on mobile and desktop. This is a great way to identify potential problems that are slowing down your website, such as choice of domain hosting, large media files (video, large photographs, etc.), and more.
Users will need to set up an API key, but thanks to Google’s vast amount of resources to help web designers there’s a tutorial and guide to help you get set up rather quickly. One of the greatest strengths of Google PageSpeed Insights is that it uses two sets of data to determine speeds: lab data and real-world field data. Pages with scores above 90 are considered ‘fast’, 50 to 90 ‘moderate’, and below 50 ‘slow’. Google considers anything above 90 to be ‘good’, so that’s an indicator that your SEO strategy should endeavour to boost page load speeds to this threshold at a minimum.
4. Hubspot – Website Grader
In terms of ease of use, few technical SEO tools can match Hubspot’s excellent Website Grader. It’s got great reviews since launching in 2006, boasting over 4 million graded websites. Best of all, it’s completely free to use. Presumably, Hubspot offer this tool in order to entice happy users to purchase some of their paid products for additional marketing and SEO but the free website grader will get the job done well on its own.
Their website is strikingly simple; enter your domain name and email address and within a minute your website will be thoroughly graded on various aspects. These include:
Moreover, website grader also does an excellent job of providing useful information on marketing initiatives with over 30 KPI’s analysed on a scale of 1-100. This can help users better develop strategies to increase their marketing potential and to identify analytics that pertain to the increasingly important nature of online marketing.
5. Screaming Frog – SEO Spider
A big part of on-site technical SEO analysis is crawling URLs and Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider does this very well. Although there is a paid version with much more utility and no limit on URL queries, the free version will get the job done for up to 500 URLs and is definitely worth a look.
Crawl your entire website to perform audits and to spot duplicate descriptions and page titles in an easy-to-use sheet. This tool is also capable of performing the following:
- Generate XML sitemaps
- Identify broken links
- Find duplicate content
- Analyse site metadata
- Extract site data
Much of these tasks aren’t immediately visible to a web designer but they’re nevertheless important for maintaining a well-structured, cohesive website. If you publish content frequently and revise your website on occasion, it’s always a good idea to review page metadata, find broken links, etc.
Duplicate content happens, often by accident. Even if well-intentioned, search engines may punish a website with too much duplicate content thus making a duplicate content tool such as Siteliner a valuable asset.
Type in your domain name in the search box and you’ll have up to 250 pages scanned and analysed for duplicate content. A sitewide percentage, as well as a page-by-page analysis, can help you locate the source of the duplicate content and to rectify it without having to search each page one by one.
Siteliner isn’t a tool you’ll have to use every day, but it’s great to use fortnightly if you’re publishing content frequently just to be sure that you aren’t publishing too much duplicate content.
Although the name Responsinator may lead you to believe it analyses page responsiveness, it does something very different and uniquely important: it shows exactly how your website looks across a range of mobile devices.
Users are first greeted with different-sized iPhones and Android devices as well as iPads of varying sizes. Simply enter your domain in the top-left corner and click ‘Go’ to see how your page appears in each device. This extremely handy tool is ideal since many optimisation efforts may look good in front-end development but not load as desired.
8. SEO Browser
A great website engages readers and builds a relationship with them, but how did they get there in the first place? Find out exactly what your visitors see when they search for you on a search engine with SEO Browser. Of course you could simply search for your own website using the search engine itself, but you’d also lack all of the relevant data and descriptors that can help people (and the search engine itself) find you better.
Simply type in the domain name and obtain a visual description of how the website appears, including thumbnails, descriptions, title, SERP preview, and the heading structure. Moreover, SEO Browser provides load speeds and other statistics that may be useful for creating technical SEO strategies that work best for providing great first impressions to visitors.
Which Technical SEO Tool is Best for Me?
It really depends on the level of detail you’re looking for, as well as the type of technical SEO analysis you’re looking to do. If you’re in doubt, use combinations of the above tools to get a better idea of where potential problems may be so that you can identify and rectify them before working on your off-site and on-site optimisation.
For example, Google Webmaster Tools and SEO Spider both provide plenty of quality crawl information, but the latter presents it in a more clear and concise format for that specific type of data. Mix and match at your leisure but be sure to try them all out at least once to see for yourself if there are any glaring omissions or errors in your website SEO strategy.
Whichever tool(s) you end up preferring, make a habit of using them whenever you’re adding content such as blog posts so that you don’t have to go back in the future. Any technical SEO tool is better than none!