If you are a QA engineer, you have to acquire all needed knowledge and skills to provide high-quality testing services to your clients. SEO testing is one of them. Tech SEO deeply analyzes websites more effectively.
Often QA engineers face the term “SEO,” when analyzing the company website’s position in search engines. It’s not enough for vendors to have a well-designed website with working functionality. Customers need to easily find services online, which means SEO is necessary.
For testing, QA testers need to know the fundamentals of Tech SEO, which is a more in-depth optimization of web-servers that help robots index and scan the website more effectively. How can users test SEO without deep expertise in this field?
After analyzing the problems after website release, googling its blogs, and forums, you’ll notice that it’s not just about the functionality and appearance. Non-optimized or poorly optimized websites won’t be on the first pages of search engines like Google. To be easily found, our website should be built by the rules of search engines.
Before testing the website begins, testers need to make or find an appropriate checklist of what needs to be done. SEO manuals usually have a variety of checklists ready for use. Let’s single out a few key points for Tech SEO testing.
7 Key Techniques for Testing Tech SEO
- Main page checking
- Basic website verification
- SEO elements
- Meta Tags
- SEO audit
1. Main Page Checking: Start Inspection
As a part of main page checking, users have to assess URLs, page speeds, web performance, and the mobile-friendliness.
This image showcases an index coverage report that dives into any errors, evaluates ranking, and optimizes content.
2. Basic Website Verification: Scan for Errors
During the basic website verification, users can mainly check page code status.
We have to make sure there are no 4XX errors, and that the number of errors 301 and 302 is the same as before the release.
4XX errors mean that there was a problem with the request sent by the user, while 3XX errors mean that there was a redirection error.
Testing will be quicker and more accurate with the help of a crawler, aka spider robot or simply, a scanner, which is an internet-bot that systematically scans the web for the purpose of page indexing.
3. SEO Elements: Figuring Out Structure and Layout
Next, users need to test SEO elements and check whether they are properly located and displayed on the website. The main SEO elements to pay attention to are the meta tag title, meta tag description, H1, canonical, and alt images. Again, you can use a crawler for this purpose, as well as Google Chrome extensions like Meta SEO Inspector and SEO Quake.
With the help of the crawler, we can check the website structure and how it’s displayed in search engines.
4. Meta Tags: Using Hidden Elements
Meta tags are the pieces of text that describe the content of the page. Because they are based within the code, they are invisible to the user but they provide search engines with specific information (title, description, keywords, etc.).
Meta tags can be divided into two types: those that are added manually when you create a page, and those that work according to the rules of auto-generation. That means they are already set in the system, meaning they are automatically added when a page is created.
Manually written meta tags can be checked with Meta SEO Inspector, another Google Chrome extension, and then compared with the document where they are written first. We can check whether the auto-generated meta tags are correct while creating pages in the admin panel of the website.
5. Sitemap: Verifying Information for Appearances
Another important step in SEO testing is Sitemap verification. Sitemap.xml is a special file that contains information about the indexed pages of the website, namely a list of pages’ addresses formed by a special but pretty simple standard.
Sitemap informs search engines about the appearance of new pages on the website to ensure that during the indexation necessary pages are not missed.
6. Robots.txt: Allowing the “Robots”
Users also have to pay attention to such file as robots.txt. This file contains the necessary information for search robots. Before robots scan our website fully, they will check this file. It is convenient because through robots.txt we indicate what information needs to be indexed.
It’s not only effective but also more secure to optimize the website for search robots. Without this file, the information which has to be hidden, can leak and surely will be scanned.
Key indicators of robots.txt are “allow” (allows the indexation of a certain file or catalog), “disallow” (disallows the indexation), and “user-agent” (defines which robots will be allowed or disallowed to scan certain files.
7. SEO Audit: Searching for Solutions
The last point in our list involves performing an SEO audit. It is carried out with tools like SemRush—the software that provides users with business analytics. It allows them to monitor keywords, along with analyzing data about their domains and domains of competitors.
The key benefit of SemRush is that it provides a detailed description of the problem and offers potential solutions.
How Much Time Does Testing Take?
The answer to this question depends on the company goals and the initial state of the websites’ SEO.
It’s also important to note that SEO testing is not a common testing activity, so it can’t be carried out by every QA engineer. Usually, there’s an SEO specialist who can perform this type of testing.
In cases where there is no SEO specialist available, this point can be discussed individually with the vendor. Usually, it’s not an issue to define roles, responsibilities, and deadlines, as SEO testing is only a part of the QA activity. It also only takes up to 20-30% of the overall testing process.
The Pitfalls of Tech SEO Testing
It’s better to perform SEO testing after each website release because when you add new functionality or fix bugs, the rate of your website usually drops. It also should be taken into account that search engines change and improve their policies from time to time.
When you implement certain updates, it’s likely that these changes will influence your website’s performance and position in search.
To make sure that your website stays well-tuned, prepare to analyze each alert and error in the course of SEO testing. The key pitfall of QA process is that you can never be 100% sure of the results.
Even though QA engineers use special tools for quicker and more effective testing, there’s always a gap in accuracy. However, it’s possible to achieve minimum error with the help of manual testing and a couple of QA techniques.
For example, if you launch an SEO Audit in SemRush, you are very likely to see that there are several pages with broken links, and they show the 404 error. Crawler, on the other hand, can show different information. For example, the list of errors is usually bigger than displayed in the image below.
In order to check which tool shows accurate results, we can open each page from both lists and find broken links with the help of browser extension called Check My Links. If the result corresponds to your expectations, and these pages really have broken links with the 404 error, don’t hesitate to fill this information in a bug report.
It’s not the fastest way of searching errors but it is surely the most effective one in terms of accuracy.
Moreover, it’s way faster than searching for broken links among all website pages manually.
Find the Right SEO Technique to Pass the Test
As mentioned before, SEO testing is not a common activity for QA engineers. However, it’s very important to have at least a basic knowledge of SEO techniques to perform high-quality web testing.
Clients, as well as their target audiences, aim for getting well-performing and user-friendly websites.
For QA teams, each happy customer means more inspiration for new, challenging projects. Using one of these effective avenues to test your tech SEO can be the perfect asset when helping your company’s performance.
This article was co-written by Igor Kovalenko, QA Team Lead at QArea. Igor transitioned to working as a software tester and QA engineer from the financial sector, bringing with him the experience of using and troubleshooting banking software. His first testing projects revolved around website development and his input and experience in web and SEO testing served as the foundation of this article.