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 what is technical SEO and technical SEO checklist to implement for your website.
What is Technical SEO?
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
Why is Technical SEO Important?
Now that the question “what is technical SEO” has been answered, it is now essential to understand its importance and the role it plays. Technical SEO ensures that a website is well structured and loads fast. Search engines are more likely to rank such websites better than the ones that are slow and full of deadlinks.
Search engines observe user’s experiences and review a website. They take note of which websites offered them categorized and quick information. When developers build and strongarm their websites keeping the technical SEO checklist in mind, their websites become secure, fast, and user friendly. This automatically increases the user retention rate and prompts search engines to boost SEO ranking. Thus, it is important to build a strong technical SEO base for your website.
Why should you optimise your site technically?
Here are five reasons why you must invest time and assets into technically optimising your website:
- To help search engines easily navigate, map, and understand your website. This helps them rank your website more accurately.
- To have higher user retention and attention.
- To outrank competitor websites. As content SEO becomes increasingly popular and accessible, optimizing your website technically will give you an edge over others.
- To make your website responsive, secure, and mobile-friendly. This significantly affects Google’s SEO ranking of the website.
- To optimise your website technically, reduce data redundancy and enhance sitemap categorization. This is beneficial for both users and search engines. It’s a win-win situation!
Top 15 Advance 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. Here is the list of top 15 technical SEO checklist you need to implement to make your website SEO friendly:
- HTTPS version
- Mobile-friendly website
- Implementation of structured data markup
- Site speed
- Optimize your crawl budget
- Optimum XML sitemap
- AMP implementation
- Avoid 404 pages
- Name your preferred domain
- Breadcrumb Menu
- Avoid Duplicate and Thin Content
- Hreflang for International Website
You could also contact us for Technical SEO Audit Services
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 and thus it began one of the most important Google ranking factors. 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. Here is a video from Google Chrome Developer on why HTTPS is important for your website
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.
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 is 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. Here is what Google’s Matt Cutts has to say on Implementation of Structured Data Markup
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.
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.
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.
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. Here is the what Google’s Matt Cutts has to say about Canonical
Read more about Duplicate content
Noindex Tag and Category Pages
Adding a ‘noindex’ tag to a page will instruct search engines to stop indexing and tracking the content and links on it. This is often used by developers to direct Google crawlers to their more important and prioritized pages. Thus, while working on enhancing different technical SEO factors, this tag can be put on archive or category pages.
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.
Breadcrumbs are an essential architectural part of the technical SEO checklist. Also known as a “breadcrumb trail”, it is a type of navigation that discloses the location of the user. It is a form of website navigation that vastly improves the orientational awareness of a visitor. Breadcrumbs clearly show the website hierarchy and point out where one user currently is.
It also lessens the number of steps a user has to take when required to go back to the homepage, a separate section, or a higher-level page. Breadcrumbs are generally used by those websites that have various sections and demand a logical structure. As a result, it serves as a great recommendation for e-commerce websites.
It is a process in which content is divided across a series of pages. Pagination, a crucial aspect of technical SEO, is used to segregate a list of products or articles into a consumable format. News publishers, ecommerce, blogs, forums, are the type of websites where pagination is used.
Duplicate content issues could be encountered while using pagination. To avoid such instances and integrate the links as well as page rank to the main page, one can make use of rel=“next” and rel=“prev” links. It is done to inform search engines that the succeeding pages are a continuation of the main page. After finding the respective links in the code, Google will recognise the main page and will use it for indexing purposes.
Thin content is one of the dominating factors in understanding what technical SEO is. It can be discovered by the ranking signals that are uncovered from the data sent by Google. To avoid instances of thin content, websites are recommended to have higher quality content written by the experts instead of using mass-produced content.
Duplicate content may be removed from the downloaded HTML before it is sent for rendering. App shell models, lesser content and code may be shown in the HTML response. The same visible code on multiple websites leads to duplicate pages which may not immediately go to rendering. Eventually, with time the concern should settle itself. Although with newer websites, it could get problematic. At this juncture, self-referencing canonical link elements help prevent duplicate content issues and indicate the original page or page one that we would like to rank in the search engines.
Extra Technical SEO Tips
Check Your Site for Dead Links
Dead Links (pages that have been deleted/moved) and broken links (non-responsive pages) can potentially harm your website’s SEO. There are two reasons for the same: one, Google crawlers spend time on these links without getting much results. Two, users visit and exit these links too quickly leaving the search engine with a bad impression of the website. Therefore, it is important to regularly audit your website, identify dead or broken links and optimise your website as much as possible. One of the easiest ways to identify these links is via Google Search Console (GSC).
Hreflang tags help to define for a page which country and language it is aimed for. It also solves a possible duplicate content problem. If a site targets more than one country where the same spoken language is present, search engines need a little help to understand the country/language one is trying to reach. Thus, Hreflang shows the right website for the searched area in the search results.
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.
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