Today I’ll share with you a Technical SEO checklist you can use right away to improve your site’s search presence. Because even if your website has the best piece of content for a popular topic in your niche, it is likely that your SEO efforts will not generate the expected results if you have not taken care of technical SEO.
But before going into that, let’s cover the basics of technical SEO.
What is It?
Technical SEO means optimizing your site’s infrastructure so search engines can access, crawl, interpret and index your website more effectively, helping to improve its organic rankings. Essential elements of Technical SEO include crawling, indexing, rendering, and website architecture. In other words, technical SEO is anything and everything that you do outside of content and links to rank higher in search results.
Technical SEO Checklist
Now that we know what technical SEO is, here is a technical SEO checklist that you can use to ensure that your site’s security and structure meet the expectation of search engine algorithms. As a result, your site will be rewarded in search results accordingly.
Create and Optimize XML sitemap of Your Site
One of the essential elements of technical SEO is XML sitemap optimization. But first, let us know what an XML sitemap is? It is an XML file that helps Google to understand your website while crawling it. It also contains useful information about each page on your site, including when you published a page, last modified, what priority it has on your site, and how frequently it is updated.
WordPress users can generate an XML sitemap using free WordPress plugins. After creating the sitemap, submit it to Google and Bing using Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster tools. After that, you need to optimize your XML sitemap.
Only include those pages in your sitemap that are important for your website. Don’t include tag pages, author pages, pages with duplicate content, or those pages that you have blocked in robots.txt. in your sitemap.
Ensure Your Website is Mobile-Friendly
According to Statista, mobile accounts for approximately half of the web traffic worldwide. The traffic generated through mobiles will grow in the next few years. To have a mobile-friendly website is not optional anymore. As Google introduced its mobile-first index, it became clear that your rankings will suffer if you don’t have a fast, mobile-friendly website. Therefore, ensure that your website is fully responsive and will display in the best format possible for mobile phones.
You can check the mobile-friendliness of your site by using any of the following free tools:
- Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test
- HubSpot’s Website Grader
- Bing’s Mobile Friendliness Test Tool
Install an SSL Certificate on Your Website
In 2014 Google said that it would give secure HTTPS websites preference over non-secure ones in search results. So, it’s better to use HTTPS, a system that comes with an added protocol —Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). This security technology encrypts data and transports it safely across the web. It means that any information transferred between your website and server, such as usernames, passwords, personal data, etc., is encrypted.
If you’re still running on non-secure HTTP and haven’t SSL installed, the first thing to do is contact your hosting provider and ask them to change to HTTPS (secure) as soon as possible. It will not only provide enhanced security to your site but is also useful from an SEO perspective.
Improve Your Website Speed
Search engines and users both prefer sites that load quickly. If your site takes a long time to load, it can seriously impact the user experience. Many people leave a webpage if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Even if your content is top-notch for a particular topic, your website will still rank lower in SERPs if it takes longer to load.
You can check your website’s speed using the following tools:
- Google Page Speed Insights
- Pingdom tools
You want a page score to be 90 or more. If your score is below 90, it means that your site speed can be improved.
There are several ways you can improve your site speed:
- Keep the use of scripts and plugins to a minimum
- Use one CSS stylesheet instead of multiple CSS stylesheets or inline CSS
- Optimize your site’s images and videos.
- Compress your web pages
- Minify your site’s code
- Don’t use heavy pre-made themes, instead go for a custom-made one
Use Canonical URLs to Fix and Avoid Duplicate Content Issues
Duplicate content is not malicious and doesn’t get a Google penalty, but it can make your site rank lower than it deserves to or be filtered out of results pages altogether. It happens because if crawlers don’t know which version of a web page is original, they won’t know which result to show in SERPs. It can be confusing for users and search engine algorithms. That’s why search engines like Google and Bing advise webmasters to fix any duplicate content issues they find.
You can use SEMrush or Alexa’s Site Audit tool to identify on-site duplicate content and then fix duplicate content issues by preventing your CMS from publishing multiple versions of a page or post. Additionally, you can use the canonical link element to let search engines know which version of a page to consider when indexing your website.
Add Structured Data Markup to Your Site
Structured data is a code you can add to your web pages that are visible to search engine crawlers and helps them understand the context of your content. It contains information about your site or specific pages on your site that are neatly organized in a database. This organization helps search engines index your site more effectively by describing your data to search engines in a language they can understand. Using structured data will improve your site’s chances of ranking in SERP features, such as rich snippets, which can lead to increased click-through rates from results pages to your site.
Structured data can help you enhance your website’s presence on the SERPs through featured snippets, knowledge graph entries, etc., and increase your CTR. There are different ways in which you can use structured data to describe your content. The most popular being articles, recipes, events, job posting, local business, etc.
Optimize URL Structure
Next comes optimizing the URL structure (the format of your URLs) of your website. Make sure that the URLs have:
- Your target keywords
- Lowercase characters
- No unnecessary characters or words
- Use – to separate words
Once you define your permanent link structure format, the only thing you will have to do is optimize your URLs when publishing new content.
Find Errors and Fix Them
Technical errors can mean that crawlers won’t index your pages properly or, in worst-case scenarios, don’t index them at all. They may hinder the performance of your website and hurt your rankings. Therefore, finding these errors and fixing them becomes necessary. You can run a technical SEO Audit using Alexa’s Site Audit tool to help find errors. It will identify related errors and advise you on how to fix the problems. Once you have fixed the errors, rerun the audit to ensure that your fixes worked. Another option to check and fix crawl errors is to use Google Search Console. Do this audit once a week to avoid any serious technical issues.
Improve Your Site Architecture
Site architecture impacts how both human users and search engine crawlers experience the site. Structuring information on a website helps users find out what they want faster and makes indexing a website easier for search engines.
If you are optimizing your website for conversions, don’t forget about navigation and site structure, as Google does consider the overall structure of a website when evaluating a particular page. A well-defined structure will not use crawl budget needlessly and will rank faster in results pages. It will help webmasters pin-point to Google the important content of a website, something that will significantly help in pushing higher in rankings the pages that really matter.
To improve your site architecture:
- Make sure it has an XML sitemap
- Organize its URLs into a logical flow
- Optimize your URL structure
Optimize Your Robots.txt
The next tip on our technical SEO checklist is to optimize your robots.txt file. It is a text file residing in your website’s root directory that gives instructions to search engines on which pages of your website they can crawl and add to their index. Make sure to check and ensure that there are no false blockings that will discourage search engine crawlers from indexing your website.
Take Care of 404 Pages
When users visit the URL that does not exist on your website, a 404 page is shown. It may happen that the page was deleted, the URL was changed, or they mistyped the URL in their browsers. You wouldn’t want any of your readers to land on a “404 Not Found” page. That creates a bad first impression, and the user may never return to your site again. You can optimize your 404 pages by giving them the same structure and navigation menus as your website. Ensure that when a page is not found, the users get directed to alternate pages. You can also make it easier for users to go back to the previous page, your homepage, or other important pages.
If you fail to address technical SEO problems, it can result in rankings dips, negative engagement metrics, and crawl errors. So, keep the above-mentioned technical SEO checklist in mind and optimize your website accordingly. Measure and track the impact of these metrics. It will help you learn which technical SEO factors most harm (or help) your rankings. Prioritize future activities based on that, and you’ll see positive impacts on organic traffic.
You can also get help from a reputed technical SEO agency to help you optimize your website for technical SEO.