SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a branch of digital marketing that is used to make a website rank higher in the unpaid or organic search results section of Google’s SERPs (search engine results page) for important search keywords. It is made up of three important sub-types, namely on-page (optimising the content within a site), off-page (building quality external links to a site), and technical SEO. While we will proceed to define and elaborate on technical SEO in the subsequent sections, it is important to understand that as a website owner, publisher or developer, all three types of SEO are critical to help you draw more web traffic, generate leads and have repeat visitors who will slowly grow loyal to your brand/business. Read on for a run-through of the most important aspects of technical SEO.
What is Technical SEO and Why It is Important?
Technical SEO is used to better a website’s infrastructure so that search engine bots can crawl and index the pages on your website more effectively.
Technical SEO is important because, it focuses on having in place a structurally sound, well-planned and cleverly laid out website that will be a breeze to navigate for its users. This, in turn, will help build a great reputation for the site and Google will eventually pick up on ranking signals like user feedback, reviews, time spent on the site, etc. to give it a good search ranking.
Also read: What is SEO
Steps in Technical SEO Checklist
It is not uncommon to feel overpowered by the sheer number of things you must do to optimize your site. Simply peruse the following technical SEO audit checklist to enhance user experience on your site and get it to rank better in Google’s organic search results.
A secure site is everything
Until 2014, online shopping or e-commerce websites were the only ones to employ SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) software for a safe and secure environment that facilitated transactions. However, in 2014, Google announced that all websites would have to adopt the technology if they wanted a higher organic search ranking on its SERPs. In 2018, it began displaying the ‘not secure’ tag for the websites which did not follow its mandate and still had the ‘http://’ tag in their URLs. To prevent this from happening, all you have to do as a website owner is to ensure that your website has an SSL certificate installed. This will create a secure and encrypted connection between your web server and a browser, thereby displaying the ‘https://’ tag instead.
In 2018, Google announced that it was going mobile-first for indexing sites. This means that the search engine looks at web-pages from a mobile device (be it a smartphone or tablet) perspective and assesses how responsive it is. You can always see how you measure up in this category by analyzing your Google Search Console data. Remember that your mobile site should have the same content as its desktop counterpart. Doing away with intrusive pop-ups is also another important optimization measure.
Read up on structured data mark-up
Structured data mark-up helps search engines understand and read your web-page better, for e.g. whether your content is a recipe, book, a how-to tutorial, etc. Simply use the Structured Data Markup Helper by Google to set it up and then test it using its Structured Data Testing Tool. But before you do any of that, remember to visit schema.org and understand which schema are appropriate for your site content and assign them to various URLs. Doing this will help you get visually enhanced rich results on Google’s SERPs, something that will catch the attention of more users.
Site speed matters
Name your preferred domain
A site can be accessed by typing in either https://www.abc.com or https://abc.com (sans the www). While users may do this on a whim, without giving it much thought, it might confuse search engines and lead to indexing and page rank issues. Hence, you must indicate to Google the version you prefer. Note that there is no advantage of choosing one over the other but once you make a decision about your preferred domain name, you must stick to it, else there will be problems during site migration using a 301 redirect. To set a preferred domain name with Google, register with Google Webmaster Tools, validate all versions of your site and then set the preferred one under ‘Site Settings’.
Conduct a canonical URL check
Duplicate site content is a big no-no when it comes to maintaining good site hygiene. A canonical URL signals to Google which version of a web-page it must crawl and index. Simply using a rel=”canonical” command in your page code will help you achieve this. It is recommended that you specify a preferred canonical URL for all the pages of your site. You can also prevent your CMS (content management system like WordPress) from publishing many versions of the same content to ensure there is no duplication in the first place.
Read more about Duplicate content
Pay attention to your XML sitemap
An XML sitemap consists of useful information about your site, including the latest changes made to a page’s content, how important it is in comparison to other pages inside your site, etc. As the name suggests, an XML sitemap gives a web crawler a blueprint of your site and tells it how to navigate it. While you can use a sitemap generator to create one for your site, is also important that you submit your XML sitemap in the Google Search Console so that it can crawl and index it properly. Make sure to remove blocked URLs, redirects that are not necessary and pages with no SEO value like author bios, privacy policies, etc., take care of broken pages, and not use any long redirects. You can use a W3C validator to check for errors in coding.
Work on 404 pages
If a page does not exist anymore or if a URL was modified by you, a 404 status code is your best bet. If you are using WordPress or a similar content publishing platform, ensure that your 404 page is search engine optimised by having a structure similar to your site, giving users options of other similar pages they can visit instead, and making it easy to navigate back to where they came from, etc. This way, you will make it easier for a web crawler to index and crawl your site while moving through it minus the confusion.
Weed out any crawl budget or indexing issues
Is AMP for you?
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a special, bare-bones version of HTML used to boost the speed and functionality of a mobile website. AMP works by deactivating scripts, forms, comments and the likes. If used correctly, AMP can inflate your CTR (click-through rate) and the number of back-links to your site. Google even displays AMP pages in important search result carousels, leading to increased user attention. However, remember that AMP is not a substitute for a mobile-friendly site.
Investing precious time into getting the technical SEO of your site right is a must for any business or brand owner as its benefits far outweigh the initial difficulty that they may face while understanding its concepts and executing its techniques. However, on the bright side, once done correctly, you do not have to bother about it except for the occasional site health audit. For everything current in the world of SEO and more, check our blogs.
Source: Search Engine Land, Webaddict, Moz and many more
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