Guide to Technical SEO – How to Increase Your Health Score
SEO is a broad field of marketing and can be described as a trinity as it consists of the 3 fundamental pillars; namely technical SEO, content and link building.
To be successful online, you therefore need to optimize in all three areas to get the best results.
This article deals with technical SEO, which is the sub-area of SEO where it is all about analyzing and strengthening the purely technical aspects of a website.
Usually, technical SEO is defined as a set of guidelines or advice that you as a programmer must follow when creating or managing a website.
These guidelines should ensure that one either develops or stands with a website that can compete in the search results. This is exactly where the two worlds, technology and SEO meet.
In short, coding and technology are used to rank well on the search engines.
But what is a “health score”?
You can not improve what you can not measure, and in the same way you can not improve your ranking on Google if you can not measure and analyze the technical health of your site.
A website must have good technical health because good technological health equals a fast and user-friendly page. These are features of technical SEO that search engines reward by moving the good pages up in the search results.
Therefore, SEO tools like Ahrefs, have developed a crawler that mimics Google’s crawler and can index and analyze your website. This can give you an overview of the website elements that can and should be improved if you want to beat your competitors in the search results.
The crawler indexes a number of different aspects, but the most important function it has is that it can read and analyze the source code of a website.
Ahrefs also analyzes errors typically found in Google Search Console. You can read more about these Core Web Vitals errors here
Why is the health score so important in technical SEO?
The health score is important because it is an indication of whether your website has been developed well or poorly.
A good health score means in other words that your site has reached its maximum potential at the technical level.
A poor health score means that there are opportunities for improvement.
Basically, you should always look at your health score before embarking on other SEO work. This is because it is unfortunately not possible to balance a poor health score with e.g. excellent content or link building.
With a website that has a poor health score, one can not rank well in the search results, no matter how good the other elements of the website are.
How is the health score calculated?
The way the health score is calculated is actually very simple:
Health score = (1 – (URLs with errors / all URLs)) * 100
If you look at the formula carefully you see that the health score actually shows the percentage of URL in the website that has errors.
A website with many errors will therefore have a low health score, and a website with few errors will give a high health score.
Health score example
A website has 2,000 URLs in total and 500 of them have errors. The health score will then be:
(1 – (500/2000)) * 100 = 75 health score
So all in all it is about reducing the number of URLs with errors.
But what counts as a mistake in Ahrefs’ eyes? There is a large number of errors that can contribute to a health score decreasing.
HTTP 4XX refers to errors that occur as a result of a failed request by the browser on a resource on the server. It can e.g. be a link to an image that was removed or similar.
Image errors occur when an image is either too large in relation to the file size or the image format. This may also be the case if the image cannot be loaded from the server.
Meta data errors occur when the crawler encounters a page where either meta data is missing or if the meta data is implemented incorrectly.
The HTML attributes that are most often missing are the canonical and hreflang attributes, which inform crawlers about duplicates and language versions of a page.
How to increase your health score – the 5 most important tips
1. Images are good, but not when they are too big
Good images are an important part of a website’s design and functionality. However, images that have an excessive file size load slowly, making the entire website slower. A slow website delays the user’s interactions with the site and therefore makes the user experience worse.
So save all images in a compressed format like JPG or WebP before uploading them. Also, make sure that the dimensions of the images correspond to the space you have available on the website.
If e.g. your product images should be 200px x 200px large, so save your image files in the same format.
Many CMS platforms allow you to install plugins that can do the work for you. If you use WordPress, you can use Shortpixel to compress images automatically.
Another great trick is to use a CDN to host your photos. CDNs are online hosting services that store your images in the cloud on a server that is faster than your own.
When a customer visits your website, the images are loaded from the fast CDN server instead of your own. Therefore, the images load much faster.
The advantage of the CDN solution is also that it is local servers rather than a centralized server. In other words, the images are stored on servers around the world, and if e.g. a Danish user accesses a US website, the images on this website can load much faster if they load from a local Danish CDN server rather than the US server where the rest of the website is hosted.
2. Keep an eye on the source code
An error that very often worsens the health score is when the crawler detects an element in the source code that should not be there.
This may be because you have previously used a feature, image, or the like that has been removed.
Sometimes sub-elements of removed elements remain in the source code, which the crawler interprets as errors.
Therefore, remember to check once in a while if only the elements on the page are supposed to be there, or if there is unused code hidden somewhere.
3. Remember to add meta descriptions and page titles to all pages
Meta descriptions and page titles (meta data) are small texts that you can (and should) implement in the source code.
Customers cannot see these texts, but crawlers read them to figure out what a page is about.
If you do not have meta data on all pages, it will lower your health score.
So always make sure to have these implemented. All CMS solutions have a meta data function – you do not need to install anything to get started.
4. Always remember canonicals and hreflangs
Canonical and hreflang are two HTML attributes that can be added to the source code of a page. But why are they so important?
The canonical attribute tells the search engines that there are multiple pages on the website with the same or similar content and that only one of the duplicates should be indexed. The search engines can thus know which data to index.
The hreflang attribute is used only when there are several language versions of the same page. Do you have e.g. a Danish and a Swedish website which has the same content but two languages, you must use the hreflang attribute to tell the search engines what the language of the page is.
Both attributes are very important. They are because the search engines either index more content than necessary (canonical) or do not understand what language the page is in (hreflang) if you do not use them, and this drags down the health score.
5. A healthy website = a good health score
It is probably not surprising that newer websites, whose source code is based on newer technologies, in many cases rank better in the search results than older pages.
Newer technologies are faster, process both server and use data faster. In addition, they tend to implement best practices – also in relation to technical SEO.
Good coding therefore almost always leads to a good health score for the simple reason that good coding also equals fewer errors.
Therefore it is always a good idea to invest in good coding if you want your website to be visible on Google. Get an experienced developer to develop your website, or use a Technical SEO consultant for guidance so that your website reaches its maximum potential.
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