What is Technical SEO? Best Practices for Higher Rankings (and a Checklist) – Technical SEO is a crucial part of the whole SEO process. If you have issues with technical SEO, it’s likely that your SEO efforts will not yield the desired results.
As a result, it’s critical that you know what technical SEO is and how to do it correctly.
The good news is that you won’t have to deal with it again once you’ve completed a technical SEO assessment of your website and fixed any potential issues.
You’ll discover what technical SEO is, what best practices to follow, and how to conduct a technical audit of your website using our technical SEO checklist in this post.
What is Technical SEO?
The process of optimizing your website for crawling and indexing is known as technical SEO. With technical SEO, you can ensure that search engines can easily access, crawl, interpret, and index your website.
It’s called “technical” since it has nothing to do with the website’s real content or its promotion. The primary purpose of technical SEO is to improve a website’s infrastructure.
Let’s start with some basic vocabulary to grasp what technical SEO really means.
What is SEO?
Let’s start with a definition of SEO. SEO, in its most basic form, is the practice of optimizing your website for search engines.
In the context of SEO, optimization means:
- Make certain that search engines can easily access and index your website
- Having high-quality material that corresponds to the searcher’s intent
- Giving search engine crawlers the information they need to comprehend your website’s structure
- Assisting search engine spiders in comprehending your content’s significance (context).
- Providing reasons for search engine algorithms to trust your website and rank it higher than other websites.
Your website will be SEO-friendly and a candidate to appear in the SERPS for many searches if you perform all of the above correctly (related to your content).
How do you start SEO?
If you read my previous article on how search engines function, you know that the crawling and indexing process is the first step that search engines do before responding to a search query.
Search engines are seeking publicly available web pages to an index during this process.
They find, read, and categorize these pages in their database so that their algorithms may access them later to offer exact answers to user searches.
Look at the figure below, which depicts the three key pillars of SEO: technical SEO, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO, to get the full picture.
Off-page SEO (also known as link building) is the practice of obtaining mentions (links) from other websites to enhance trust throughout the ranking process. On-page SEO is concerned with content and how to make it more relevant to what the user is searching for.
There are no clear borders between technical, on-page, and off-page SEO, as shown in the diagram above because they all have to work together for a properly optimized website.
Technical SEO Best Practices
Let’s look at the best practices for technical SEO now that we know what it is. You can conduct your own technical SEO audit using the list below.
- Select a Preferred Domain for Optimization Optimize Your URL Structure with Robots.txt
- Site Structure and Navigation
- Structured Data Markup is used in breadcrumb menus.
- URLs that are canonical
- XML Sitemap Optimization for the 404 Page
- Website Speed using SSL and HTTPS
- Mobile Compatibility
- Pagination and Multilingual Websites with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
- Use webmaster tools to register your website.
Specify a Preferred Domain
You must specify your preferred domain when creating your website or blog. By doing so, you’re telling search engines whatever variation of the domain you wish to use for the rest of your website’s life.
Let’s have a look at why this is necessary.
By default, a website can be accessed with and without the www in front of the domain name.
If your domain is example.com, for example, your website can be found at both http://www.example.com and http://example.com (i.e. without the www).
While this is OK for people, it is perplexing for search engines, who treat these as two separate websites.
This could result in indexing troubles, duplicate content issues, and a loss of page rank.
To resolve this issue, you must select your preferred domain and notify search engines of your decision.
Many people wonder if they should use www in front of their domain or stick with the non-www version.
There is no SEO benefit to using one format over the other; it is simply a matter of preference.
I prefer to use www in front of my domains since it feels more natural to me, but there’s nothing wrong with using http instead.
What matters is that you notify search engines of your decision and maintain consistency throughout the life of your website.
How to set your preferred domain
In the past, Google Search Console included a possibility to indicate your favorite domain, however, Google opted to eliminate it in favor of canonical URLs.
This post will teach you more about canonical URLs and how to utilize them to help search engines recognize your desired domain.
Optimize your Robots.txt
After you’ve chosen your ideal domain, you’ll need to review and optimize your robots.txt file.
What exactly is a robots.txt file?
Robots.txt is a text file in your website’s root directory that tells search engines which pages of your site they can crawl and index.
This file’s format is fairly straightforward, and you won’t have to make any changes to it in the vast majority of circumstances.
What’s vital is to inspect and make sure there aren’t any bogus blockings that would prevent search engines from indexing your site.
Optimize Your URL Structure
The revision of your website’s URL structure is the next item on your technical SEO audit checklist. The format of your URLs is referred to as URL structure.
The following are the best SEO techniques for URLs:
- Lowercase letters should be used.
- To separate words in a URL, use the – symbol.
- Make the descriptive parts brief.
- Avoid employing characters or words that aren’t necessary.
- Without keyword stuffing, use your target keywords in the URL.
- The only thing you’ll have to do when publishing fresh content is optimized your URLs once you’ve defined the format of your permanent link structure.
If you’re using WordPress as your content management system, you’ll notice that when you make a new post, WordPress automatically generates the URL from the title.
The URL created by WordPress will be http://www.example.com/10-technical-seo-best-practices-for-beginners if your article title is “10 Technical SEO Best Practices For Beginners.”
This isn’t awful, but you could make it more targeted and easier to remember by using something like http://www.example.com/technical-seo.
If you wish to change your permanent link structure, you can use 301 redirects, just like you did with the preferred domain.
However, changing the URLs of existing points is not encouraged because it adds little value, but you can use the best practices for new postings.
Navigation and Website Structure
For a variety of reasons, the structure of a website is a significant SEO aspect.
Users are more likely to stay on a website longer and find what they’re looking for more quickly, and search engines can better understand and crawl a website.
Many webmasters make the mistake of forgetting about navigation and site structure in their efforts to optimize their websites for conversions, and as a result, their SEO suffers.
One common example is to hide archive pages from users and group all information into a single category.
Archive sites and several category pages were often regarded to be harmful SEO practices, but this is no longer the case.
When analyzing a page, Google considers the overall structure of the website, which is something that should not be disregarded.
Of course, if you want to reap any benefits, your category pages should be optimized.
A well-defined structure also helps webmasters pinpoint to Google the vital material of a website, as indicated by Google (see screenshot below from their guidelines), which will tremendously aid in pushing the pages that genuinely matter higher in results.
Add Breadcrumb Menus for Technical SEO
A breadcrumb menu is a group of links at the top or bottom of a page that allows users to return to a previous page (typically the category page) or the website’s home page.
A breadcrumb menu has two purposes: it allows users to traverse a website without having to use their browser’s back button, and it gives search engines another insight into the structure of a website.
Because breadcrumbs are highly encouraged by Google, they are featured as an SEO aspect in numerous SEO guides.
Make sure that breadcrumbs are enabled on your website and that they have the necessary structure if you don’t already have them.
Structured Data Markup and SEO
Structured data has become increasingly essential in recent years as a result of Google’s heavy use of it in its Search Results.
What is structured data?
Structured data, in simple terms, is code that you can add to your web pages that helps search engine crawlers understand the context of your content. It’s a way to tell search engines what your data is about in a language they can understand.
How is structured data related to technical SEO?
Although structured data is concerned with a website’s content, it is included in technical SEO because it necessitates the addition of code to your site. You usually just have to add the structured data definition once, and then you’re done.
In the instance of breadcrumbs, for example, you only need to configure your structured data once and then you’re done.
The same is true for articles. When you add the properly structured data definition to your CMS, it will be applied to new material automatically.
What is the benefit of using structured data?
It can help you improve the appearance of your listings in the SERPS by adding featured snippets, knowledge graph entries, and other features, as well as increasing your CTR.
What are the uses of structured data?
You may use structured data to describe your content in a variety of ways. Articles, recipes, events, job postings, local businesses, and more are among the most popular. The whole list can be seen here.
Check Your Canonical URLs
A canonical URL should be assigned to each and every page of your website. In the head> of your articles and pages, add the tag link rel=”canonical” href=”yourpageurl”> to define this.
What is a canonical URL?
It’s a simple technique for Google to know which version of a page to index when crawling your site. The idea is analogous to the preferred domain, where a single page can be accessed by multiple URLs.
When you have pages with similar content, you can use rel=”canonical” for paging and to avoid duplicate content issues when you add content from other websites to your website.
As a general guideline, every of your website pages should have a canonical URL.
Visit any of your pages, right-click anywhere on the page, and select VIEW SOURCE to see if your website has a canonical URL. Look up rel=canonical and see what it means.
If you can’t find a reference to canonical, you may either use a plugin to add it for you (if you’re using WordPress, Yoast SEO is a good option) or pay a developer to make the necessary adjustments to your code.
You don’t need to do anything else once you’ve set your website to output the canonical URL correctly, just like you didn’t have to do anything else with other technical SEO factors.
Optimize Your 404 Page
When a visitor visits a URL that does not exist on your website, they are directed to a 404 page. It’s possible that the page was removed, the URL was altered, or they typed the URL incorrectly in their browsers.
Most modern WordPress themes have SEO-friendly 404 pages by default; if not, you can easily improve the SEO friendliness of your 404 page by installing a plugin or altering your theme templates.
What is an optimized 404 page?
A well-optimized 404 page should include the following elements:
- Maintain the same structure and menus as your website.
- Inform visitors that the page they are looking for is no longer available in a polite manner.
- Provide them with choices (suggest other related pages)
- Make it simple to return to the previous page, your homepage, or other critical pages.
How to check your 404 pages?
Simply open a new browser window and type a URL on your website that does not exist to see how your 404 page looks. Your 404 page will be displayed in the browser.
Don’t waste time optimizing your 404 pages; instead, make sure that when a page isn’t discovered, a bespoke 404 page is displayed.
Optimize your XML Sitemap for Technical SEO
XML sitemap optimization is one of the most significant aspects of technical SEO.
An XML Sitemap is an XML file that lists all of your website’s pages and posts. Aside from their title, it also gives the date they were first published and the date they were last updated.
When crawling a website, search engines might utilize the XML sitemap as a guide.
How to Optimize your XML Sitemap?
Simple XML sitemap optimization: only include the pages that are important to your website in your sitemap. These are, in most cases, your pages, posts, and categories.
Tag pages, author pages, and other pages with no original material should not be included in your sitemap.
As soon as a new page is published or an existing page is updated, make sure your sitemap is automatically updated.
Submit your sitemap to Google and Bing using the Google search console and Bing Webmaster tools, then monitor the status.
Add SSL to Make Your Website HTTPS
The most recent Internet craze is security. HTTPS is a well-known ranking signal and another technique to earn your users’ confidence.
When you install an SSL on your server, you can access your website via https rather than http. This means that any data sent between your website and the server (such as usernames, passwords, personal information, and so on) is encrypted.
SSL was once just needed for eCommerce websites, but it is now required for any website on the Internet.
If you don’t already have SSL installed, contact your hosting provider and request that SSL is enabled on your account; after that, you’ll need to go through a migration procedure to activate SSL on your website.
Website Speed – Faster is better
Website speed is another well-known ranking factor. All of Google’s SEO suggestions emphasize the significance of speed, and studies show that speedier websites perform better than slower websites.
Website speed is a technical issue that necessitates improvements to your website and infrastructure in order to achieve optimal results.
To begin, use three tools to assess your speed: Google Page Speed Insights, Pingdom Tools, and Google Mobile Speed Tool.
The tools above will give you some advice on what you should modify to increase your speed, but as I previously stated, this is a technical issue, and you may need to employ a developer to assist you.
In general, the following are some things you can do to make your website load faster:
- Upgrade to a 64-bit operating system on your server.
- Upgrade to PHP 7.2, which will provide you with significant speed increases over PHP 5.2.
- Make your photographs as big as possible. There are technologies available to assist you in doing so without sacrificing quality.
- Reduce the number of plugins you utilize.
- Install the most recent versions of WordPress and all plugins.
- Use light pre-made themes instead of heavier ones. They add a lot of unnecessary code; instead, invest in a custom-made theme.
- CSS and JS files should be optimized and minified.
- Users are served cached pages using a caching plugin.
- Avoid cramming your website’s head> with too many scripts.
It is not optional to have a mobile-friendly website. The bulk of your consumers are undoubtedly on mobile, and with Google’s introduction of the mobile-first algorithm, your rankings will suffer if you don’t have a speedy, mobile-friendly website.
Because you won’t have to deal with this again after you have a mobile-friendly theme that is properly installed, mobile-friendliness is a part of technical SEO.
It’s also a chore that necessitates technical know-how to do.
The first step is to use this Google tool to assess your website’s mobile-friendliness.
If your website fails the test, you still have a lot of work ahead of you, and it should be your top priority.
- The content on your mobile website should be the same as on your desktop site. Google’s mobile-first index aims to rank mobile websites based on their mobile content, so any material you have on your desktop should also be available on mobile (including any internal links or other elements available on your desktop website).
- It should take less than 6 seconds for your mobile website to load (when tested on 3G).
- It’s typical for mobile conversion rates to be lower than desktop conversion rates, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to optimize your mobile website as much as possible.
You won’t have to worry about the mobile-first index if you already have a responsive website, but if you have a separate mobile website on a subdomain or folder, make sure it has the same content as your desktop website.
Consider Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Google proposed Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as a relatively new concept in its drive to make the mobile web faster.
Simply put, AMP allows you to deliver a version of your website that uses AMP HTML, which is a compressed version of standard HTML.
When you develop AMP pages for your website, they are saved and served to users through a unique Google cache that loads them much faster (nearly instantly) than standard mobile-friendly pages.
Only Google Mobile results and other AMP providers, such as Twitter, give access to AMP pages.
There is a long debate in the SEO world about whether or not you should use AMP pages; there are benefits and drawbacks to doing so.
The most essential advantages and disadvantages of AMP
- Make your mobile pages faster
- May potentially increase your CTR (from mobile users)
- Not easy to implement. Even on WordPress activating the AMP plugin is not enough
- You cannot use AMP pages for email marketing purposes
- You need to hire a developer to help build a decent AMP website
- Your analytics and reports will get confusing as you have to maintain and take into account reports from two different websites (your normal website and your AMP website).
Conclusion of Technical SEO
Technical SEO is a series of tests and settings that you must optimize in order for search engines to properly crawl and index your website.
In most circumstances, once you’ve mastered technical SEO, you won’t have to worry about it again, except by performing periodic SEO audits.
The term “technical” suggests that certain tasks (such as page performance optimization, adding structured data, and so on) require some technical knowledge, but it is vital to complete them or else your website will not realize its full potential.
Our SEO Courses cover all parts of technical SEO in detail and will walk you through the process step by step if you need additional knowledge about any of the duties.