When most website owners and bloggers talk about SEO, their minds immediately jump to conclusions about producing the right content and using the right keywords so they can rank higher in Google search results. While consistent, high-quality content is indeed an important part of any SEO strategy, technical SEO often gets overlooked in the process, and many people don’t realize how much of an edge a technical SEO strategy could give them.
Fortunately, we do. Here’s what you should know about the nitty-gritty details of technical SEO, what kind of technical SEO checklist you should follow, and how to judge your site’s current technical SEO performance.
Technical SEO vs. On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO: What’s the Difference?
SEO is a broad term and it encompasses a lot of different things, including technical SEO, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO. It’s easy to get them mixed up but there are important and distinct differences between each type when it comes to your SEO strategy.
With on-page SEO, you’re tweaking individual webpages so that they’ll beat out the competition for Google’s top spot. This might mean including certain keywords in your page copy, adding a meta description or image alt text, or reformatting the text to be more organized.
Off-page SEO, on the other hand, refers to anything you do off of your website to increase your rankings. One of the most popular examples is backlinking campaigns; if enough websites are linking back to your website (especially sites with high domain authority), Google assumes you’ve got some great, authoritative information that more people should see.
Out of three strategies, on-page and off-page SEO may be the stars of the show, but technical SEO is taking care of all of the behind-the-scenes work. Technical SEO helps improve your overall site usability – whether that means giving a boost to your page speed, getting rid of duplicate content issues, or making your website more compatible with different mobile devices.
Technical SEO can happen in the web development stage but, for many site owners, it’s a continuous process (as it should be). A great technical SEO strategy means consistently fixing bugs, getting rid of broken links and updating outdated information.
A Technical SEO Checklist to Follow
If you really want to catch Google’s attention with great content marketing, it’s important to implement a technical SEO strategy. If you’re still new to the game, it can be hard to know where to start. Here’s an in-depth technical SEO checklist to take your new strategy to the next level:
1. Speed Up Page Loading Time
It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling gummy vitamins or writing a personal blog, nobody likes a slow loading time. In fact, if your website takes more than three seconds to load, studies show that around 40% of visitors abandon it. Slow loading times can happen for a variety of reasons, including server response time or having image files that are too large.
2. Deal with Crawl Errors
Crawl errors happen when a search engine tries to reach a specific webpage on your site -- or your entire site -- but isn’t able to. When your site can’t be crawled, this is known as a site error. When a single page can’t be crawled, this is known as a URL error. An issue with your server or your robots.txt file can lead to site errors while a “404 PAGE NOT FOUND” error is the most common example of a URL error. Nip these in the bud as soon as you find them to prevent your site from being penalized -- or altogether ignored -- by Google.
3. Get Rid of Duplicate Content
Your teachers in school probably didn’t appreciate plagiarism and Google doesn’t either. Duplicate content refers to anything that shows up in more than one place on the internet, but it doesn’t need to be a complete copy for Google to consider it duplicate. Even if there are unique parts of your content, using the same titles, headings, or meta-descriptions that another site uses can hurt your site rankings.
4. Improve (Mobile) User-Friendliness
It’s no surprise that with so many mobile users worldwide, Google places a higher priority on mobile indexation. If your site is user-friendly on mobile devices, you’ll likely beat out the competition that isn’t.
5. Fix Broken Links
It’s not uncommon to want to link to external sources on your website, but you’ll need to make sure these links are working and functional first. That means regularly checking (and fixing) broken links. For those pesky 404 errors, make sure every link on your website leads to an actual page. This can usually be done with a 301 redirect, which works like a virtual mail forwarder, sending the broken link to a new, related page that’s functioning properly.
Broken links can happen for a variety of reasons, including entering the wrong URL, linking to a deleted page, or some other broken element on the page.
6. Check HTTPS
In recent years, Google has begun using the HTTPS protocol as a ranking signal and recommends that all websites move from HTTP to HTTPS. HTTPS sites are more secure because they encrypt user data and, for your audience, the difference between an HTTPS and a HTTP site is big. Before they can even access an HTTP site, most users get a message that their connection isn’t safe and the website isn’t secure.
7. Use Proper URL Structure
URL structure refers to the way your URL address looks on your site or when it pops up on a search engine. Using proper, simple URL structure not only makes ranking easier, but it also makes your site easier to navigate for users (and search engine crawlers).
8. Make Navigation Easier
A key component of optimization is to ensure your site is easy to navigate. Not all site owners create sitemaps, but it’s in your best interest to do so. Creating a sitemap allows for Google and other search engines to locate, crawl, and index all the content on your website.
On top of that, you should take advantage of internal linking to connect your web pages. Link building can help keep your users on your site for a longer period, which indicates to Google that the content is valuable.
9. Test Robots.txt Files
Want to check crawlability issues? Testing your robots.txt files is a great way to do so – and it’ll let you know whether your robots.txt files are blocking Google’s crawlers from viewing specific URLs or pages.
10. Add Schema Markup
If you know anything about rich snippets, then you’ll love learning about schema markup. Schema markup refers to code that you place on your website to help search engines provide better information to visitors.
For example, when you look up information about a local festival, the result on Google also contains what time the festival is or where it’s located. Another good example might be a local business that includes how well it’s been rated by customers.
What Tools Can You Use For Technical SEO Audits?
Technical SEO site audits may not always be fun, but with the right technical SEO checklist, they can do wonders for boosting your site’s rankings and usability. Here are a handful of tools you can use to aid your technical SEO efforts:
The world may not be black-and-white, but Google and other search engines often see it that way. Regardless of how killer your site’s content may be, it can end up buried in search engines if you don’t follow this technical SEO checklist and have a digital marketing strategy to back it up.
Not to mention, improving your SEO doesn’t just mean a boost in your search result rankings – it also means improving your user experience as well. With faster page loads, fewer crawl errors and greater mobile compatibility, you’ll be creating a site that’s easier for visitors to navigate too.
With our technical SEO checklist, you can better plan your way to the first page of Google. Let us know how the list works for you in the comments and don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss your own site’s technical SEO with us!