If you’ve been in the SEO industry for a certain amount of time then you must have realized that SEO has become more complicated than ever. Once there was a time when on-page optimization and link building was enough to rank a website. But things have changed and with the constant update of Google algorithms, we have to keep the focus on other aspects of SEO. And that’s Technical SEO – the next big topic to talk about.
Technical SEO is a very important step in the whole SEO process because it ensures your website complies with the search engine guidelines and succeeds in the highly competitive SERPs. It’s very important to pay attention to Technical SEO right from the construction of the website or it will become rather difficult to come up in Google’s SERP for desired keywords.
What Is Technical SEO
Technical SEO refers to all the SEO activities excluding content optimization and link building. It elucidates the efforts of a webmaster to follow search engine requirements in order to improve crawling, indexing, and ranking of their website.
According to SearchEngineJournal “If you think of SEO like building a house, then technical SEO is all about building a solid foundation. You can look at it as any work done to a site aside from the content itself.”
Technical SEO Checklist
At the very beginning, there were a lot of speculations on the value of technical SEO. Some called it a makeup, some of it was proclaimed dead, but it was brought back to life thanks to continuous Google algorithm updates. With outstanding examples of technical SEO tactics resulting in major traffic boosts, now is the time to learn and implement Technical SEO on our website. So let’s get a roll in!
Verify Google Search Console & Google Analytics
Google search console and Google analytics are two very important tools that you need to add to your website. Search Console helps you monitor your site’s performance by identifying issues and backlinks. You can also check your preferred domain, Manual actions, Index status, Crawl errors, robots.txt, and sitemap in search console. If anything goes wrong with your website, Google will communicate with you through search console.
Google Analytics is a free service that helps you track and monitor your website traffic. It provides insight into the demographics of site visitors, the performance of a specific campaign, bounce rate and how long people are staying on your website. Best practice is to add Google Analytics to your website from day one so you can measure and analyze traffic to your site.
Visitors love those websites that have a fast page loading speed. And we all know page speed is one of the determined ranking factors on Google. So it’s very important how fast the content of your page loads. You can use Google Page Speed Insights test your website’s speed and load times.
It’s very important to check the number of your site’s pages that are indexed by search engines. Because it will give you an idea of whether or not your important resources are indexed. Moreover, you can find out any unnecessary or thin pages are indexed or not. You can check your website’s indexing by entering site: domain.com in your target search engine.
Optimize Crawl Budget
Crawl budget is the number of a site’s pages that a Googlebot crawls on a website during a given period of time. From Google Search Console you can know about your website’s approximate crawl budget. Although it’s not clear how Google assigns crawling budget to websites, you can optimize your site’s crawl budget by applying these tricks:
- Make pages crawlable by configuring your .htaccess and robots.txt
- Use rich media judiciously
- Fix broken links
- Keep sitemap clean and updated
- Reduce the number of redirects
Make Sure Important Resources are Crawl-able
We all know that Google is starting the “mobile-first indexing of the web”. It means Google will index the mobile version of websites instead of its desktop version. Moreover, the mobile version of your pages will determine the rank of your website in both mobile and desktop search results. So from Technical SEO’s perspective, it is very important to make your website mobile-friendly. Here are some tips you can follow:
- Simplify website’s design for mobile devices
- Ensure mobile page load speed is optimum
- Use HTML 5 to create special effects on your website
AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. This is a project from Google and Twitter to provide mobile searchers with faster loading web pages. AMP has become a must for media websites and blogs, as well as sites that have mobile speed issues. So it’s very important to configure AMP on the website and check if it complies with Google’s requirements.
Schema/ Structured Data Markup
Another very important element of Technical SEO to talk about is structured data/schema markup. Schema markup is a code written in HTML or JSON that you can use on your site to help Google understand your website’s data better and enhance search visibility via rich snippets, featured snippets, and Knowledge Graph results. These rich snippets enable a user to more likely click on your search engine results.
Robots.txt is a text file that will tell the search engine which pages of the website to be crawled and which pages not to be crawled. This is a very important element of Technical SEO because something as small as “/” in the wrong place can do a great damage to your website’s ranking. So check your robots.txt file very carefully and see if there is any misplaced “disallow” on the file because pages with “disallow” cannot be indexed.
Optimize XML Sitemap
The XML sitemap is one of the most important elements of Technical SEO as it contains all the URL’s of all the pages of your site and shows the structure of your site to Google and other search engines. Search engines use the XML sitemap as a guide when crawling a website. So it’s very important to optimize your sitemap only with the pages that are important for your website. Best practice is to include pages, posts, categories and exclude tag pages, author pages etc.
WWW and Non-WWW Duplication
Webmasters sometimes find themselves in a dilemma whether to use www in front of their domain or to go with the non-www version. Interestingly there is no SEO advantage from choosing the one format over the other, so it’s your personal preference. But the problem will arise if the same content on your website appears on two different URLs WWW and Non-WWW. Google will index both contents and will consider them as duplicate content. So to avoid www and non-www duplication, use Rel Canonical tag.
Check Canonical URLs
Canonical URLs help Google and other search engines to know which version (WWW or Non-WWW) of a page to take into account when indexing your website. So every page of your website must have a canonical URL. This is defined by adding the tag <link rel=”canonical” href=”yourpageurl”>, in the <head> of your posts and pages. The main purpose of using canonical URLs is to avoid duplicate content. You can easily check the canonical URL of any web page from “View Page Source”.
Another vital part of Technical SEO is Breadcrumb. It is a type of navigation that reveals the location of a user on the website. Moreover, breadcrumbs give hint to search engines about the structure of a website. Google highly recommended the use of breadcrumbs on the website. So, if you don’t already have breadcrumbs enabled, make sure that they are enabled on your website.
Next Technical SEO checklist is URL structure. The URL is a readable text that describes the page for both users and search engines. Well, optimized URL structure is a very important Google ranking factor. Here are some tips on how to optimize your website’s URL SEO-friendly:
- Use lowercase characters
- Use shorter URLs
- Use hyphens (–) to separate words in the URL
- Use keywords within the URL
- Match your URL to the title
Image Optimization with ALT Tag
If you have images on your site then it’s better to compress all your images before uploading them. It will increase the speed of your website. Also, check if your images have ALT tag. Google gives significant importance to ALT tag as it helps the search engine understand what the image is about. Best practice is to use a keyword as the ALT tag.
Code to Text Ratio
Code to text ratio is a very important Technical SEO element. It tells how much content and codes are present in a web page. For a better ranking in SERP, it’s very important to have higher text ratio opposed to HTML elements on a web page. So if a web page has lots of code and very thin content then my suggestion is either add content to the page or remove unnecessary codes. Best practice is to keep the code to text ratio between 25 to 75%.
If your website targets two different pages for the same keyword then it’s called keyword cannibalization. It is a very critical Technical SEO problem because Google finds it difficult to understand which page is the most relevant. So use 301 redirects wherever possible to solve the keyword cannibalization problem.
Use of iFrames
An iframe also known as the inline frame is a part of HTML syntax that allows you to use content from another website without duplicating it on your website. Usually, iFrame is used to embed YouTube videos, PDFs, Google maps, slideshows from SlideShare etc. The main problem of using iFrame is Google cannot crawl content within iFrames. So if you want to rank your web pages then don’t include content within iFrames.
Use of Flash
Use of flash in a website is great for interacting with visitors, but it reduces the amount of content visible to Google’s search bots resulting very poor search engine visibility. So for higher ranking in SERP, it’s better to avoid using flash on your website.
Make Your Website HTTPS
Security is one of the biggest concerns in the online world. Google put emphasize on website security and added HTTPS on their ranking factor list. So having your website on HTTPS:// will give your website a ranking boost. Moreover, it will ensure that any information transferred between your website and server such as usernames, passwords, personal data etc. is encrypted. So it’s never late to add SSL on your website. While adding SSL on your website follows the procedure very carefully because it’s similar to migrating to a new domain.
Technical SEO is a never-ending topic and there are lots more to explore about it. The best part of Technical SEO is; you won’t have to deal with it again, other than doing periodical SEO Audits. I hope the points that I discussed here will help you make your website technically sound and improve its SERP ranking.
Feel free to share your opinion regarding this article and don’t forget to mention any topics that I might have missed about Technical SEO.