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FREE online SEO course: SEMrush Site Audit 

Find and Fix Errors

9 lessons


How to Find and Fix Essential Technical SEO Errors

Hello and welcome back to the SEMrush Academy video on using the Site Audit tool.

My name is Ross Tavendale, I'm the managing director of the London-based SEO company Type A Media.

In this lesson we are going to be talking about how to find and fix essential areas of your site using the Site Audit tool.

In particular, we are going to look at the Hygiene part of our technical strategy.

So, without further ado, let's get into it.

Hygiene refers to the basic elements of your site that are essential for high performance in search.

From a technical SEO standpoint, hygiene concerns itself with Googlebot's ability to crawl and index your site.

In order for that to happen, we need to make sure the site is accessible and there is nothing broken that would impede a crawler understanding your site.

We will go over the following sections:

  • Diagnosing issues and analyzing the data
  • Finding broken links' 404 pages and how to fix them
  • Finding redirect loops and daisy chains, working out what they are and how to fix them.

In this lesson we are going to dive into the Issues report and direct each of the sections so you understand how to use it. So let's get started.

Broken links are links on your site that lead to a 400 style error page, from a 404 page not found to a 410 page permanently removed from the index.

As Googlebot follows these links to help discover new pages on your site, it is important that there are no broken links on your site.

Further to discoverability, links pass page rank.

Page rank is the flow of power from one page to another. If you have lots of broken pages then you are going to find it difficult to rank if there is a stoppage in your flow of links to certain pages.

Think of a pyramid of champagne glasses. The top glass is your homepage, the champagne is the links. The more broken pages you have, the harder it is to get to the bottom. And the less likely those pages are to rank.

Broken links should be fixed before you fix other external 404s.

The reason why we fix broken links manually instead of redirecting them is crawl efficiency. The fewer loops you make Google jump through, the better the site will perform.

To find your broken links we want to go to Issues > Select ‘Internal Links are Broken'.

In this report you are going to see the page URL (which is the page the broken link was discovered on). The Link URL - which is the actual broken resource, and an HTTP code, which tells you what kind of issue it is and the date it was discovered.

Use the advanced filters drop down here to drill down into the broken links and find how all the issues are clustered together.

We want to see if there is a specific URL causing multiple problems so we can make one fix that positively affects the entire site.

Dealing with 404 Error Pages

404s are error pages on the site.

These can be caused by links pointing to a page that's been deleted, moved to another location or linked to from an external source incorrectly.

Typically, a site generates more 404s over time as we add and remove pages, redirecting the site and conducting migrations.

It's part and parcel of the web and is nothing to be worried about.

However, seeing high numbers of 404s on a site demonstrates poor site quality to Google, frustrates users and damages your traffic and sales.

It's important to discover 404 pages early and nip them in the bud before they grow too big to handle.

Using the 404 report we can not only see where all the 404s are, but where they originated from and any patterns that are being created.

To find all your 404s we want to go to “Issues” > “Pages returned a 4xx status.”

When we click into this report we can see the URL that is producing a 404.

A link to the report showing all the links pointing to the broken page, and the HTTP code and the discovery date.

Typically, a developer or sysadmin will be needed to implement this fix, so we like to use the handy “send to Trello” button to send it to a project management tool.

We recommend using the advanced filters to diagnose patterns in the 404s to see if there is a single folder or URL causing multiple errors.

Once you have fixed your 404s, make sure you re-crawl the site again to make sure they are now returning a 301 status code.

You will find your 301s in the “Notices” section.

On top of this, we recommend marking your 404s as “fixed” in your search console to let Google know that you have fixed the errors.

Getting Rid of Redirect Loops, aka Daisy Chain Redirects

Next up we want to look at redirect loops. A redirect loop is simply a series of redirects that redirect to each other in perpetuity.

So if you redirect URL A to B, then redirect B to C, and C to D. You've just made Googlebot jump through 4 loops to see one URL.

Now this in isolation is usually not a huge problem, but if this is happening site wide you're presenting a site 4 times the size for Google to crawl and index.

So let's see how we can fix it.

To find the redirect loops go to Issues then redirect chains and loops.

When we click into the report we can see the number of chains, the server response code as well as the originating and destination URL, so we know where to go in order to fix it.

When looking at this part of the report it's important to look for patterns to see if there is something deeper that is causing the issues.

I typically like to export this report to CSV using the export tool here and start to analyze how all the URLs are constructed to see if I can uncover a pattern.

Technical SEO Hygiene: Lesson Summary

That's everything for lesson 2 on technical SEO hygiene, we hope you've found it valuable.

If you have any questions, feel free to tweet them to me directly @rtavs or the professionals at the SEMrush Academy on @semrushacademy.

To concrete your learning and to increase your competency, please go to the Site Audit tool and try to analyze the data and pull the reports for yourself.

Also, once you are ready, head over to the SEMrush Academy page and take the quiz for this module so you can get SEMrush certified.

If you want to learn more about this topic, you can see a list of useful links and further reading that will help inform your knowledge on the subject.