Technical SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that search engine spiders can efficiently crawl and index your site. Technical SEO optimizations, by itself, will not help you hit your SEO goals. It must be combined with other SEO strategies, such as on-page and off-page SEO, to make up the three-main pillars of SEO.
See the Venn diagram below for a full picture of how technical SEO fits into the overall SEO strategy:
Why is technical SEO important?
In short, technical SEO is important because it can make or break your organic rankings. You can have the best content on the internet and have backlinks from some of the most authoritative sites (think CNN & NYT), but if you’re blocking search engines from crawling and indexing the site, you will probably have the worst rankings (if any).
In short, technical SEO is important because it can make or break your organic rankings.
Technical SEO Checklist for Beginners
The checklist below covers some of the most critical elements of tech SEO and will help ensure you have a technically sound website. That said, this is not a comprehensive list of technical recommendations, and continued education is the key to ensuring your site stays technically sound.
By following the technical SEO checklist below, you are taking steps to ensure you have a strong technical foundation that removes most of the roadblocks that could prevent search engines from properly crawling, indexing, and accurately ranking your site.
1) Make sure Google can crawl and index your website
Crawling is defined as “the process by which Googlebot discovers new and updated pages to be added to the Google index.” (Source). If Googlebot cannot crawl your pages, it cannot index and rank your content.
The best way for webmasters to ensure Googlebot can crawl and index a page is to use the Inspect a Live URL tool within Google Search Console, which allows you to test a live URL to see whether or not Google can index it. If Google cannot index the URL, the test will return an error, and you will need to fix it to get your page crawled and indexed.
Here are some of the most common ways to ensure your site can be crawled and indexed:
- Ensure you are not blocking search engines from crawling the page in your robots.txt file.
- Ensure you don’t have any orphaned pages, which means the page has zero internal links making it impossible for users and crawlers to find the page.
- Ensure the page is in your sitemap.xml file so search engines can find the page.
- Ensure the page does not have a no-index tag if you want it to be indexed.
2) Make sure you only have one version of any given page
Duplicate content is when you have multiple pages of the same or similar content on your site. When search engines encounter duplicate content, it is confused about which version of the page to index and rank. Ultimately the search engine picks the version they think is best and filters out the rest.
There are several ways to solve and prevent duplicate content issues, and the most common are:
- Use a canonical tag to suggest to Google which version of the page is the preferred version.
- Use 301 redirects to redirect similar content pages to the preferred version
- Make sure you are using either the www version or the non-www version but not both. Using both creates a duplicate of the entire website.
- Make sure you are enforcing lower-case URLs as mix-case URLs are considerer duplicate content
Siteliner is a great tool to use if you want to find duplicate content on your site.
3) Make sure your website loads quickly
Site speed has been a ranking factor since 2010, and therefore, a slower site tends to rank worse than a faster website.
There are several tools you can use to determine your site speed. The most common being PageSpeed Insights where you can plug in a URL, and you’ll get a report on how the page performs with a list of recommendations you can implement to improve speed.
There is also a tool on Think with Google that allows you to compare your mobile page speed with your competitors to see how you stack up with the competition. Another cool feature within the tool is the ability to evaluate the impact a faster site can have on your business. For example, the tool can tell you how much more money you can make if you speed your website up by X.
4) Make sure your website is secure
Google has moved towards creating a more secure web experience for users by recommending that webmasters adopt HTTPS encryption. Google has incentivized webmasters by providing a ranking boost for sites using HTTPS and by marking HTTP pages as “not secure” to warn users.
That said, ensure your website is secure by installing a valid SSL certificate. Here are some best practices for implementing HTTPS on your website.
5) Makes sure your website is mobile-friendly
Google started a slow rollout of mobile-first indexing back in March 2018 and has since made mobile-first indexing the default for new domains starting July 2019. That said, it’s safe to say that if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it probably won’t rank well.
Google has provided a mobile-friendly testing tool for webmasters to test how easily a visitor can use your page on a mobile device.
Get the most out of your SEO optimizations
The moral of the story here is that technical SEO is an essential part of any great SEO strategy. If you are avoiding technical SEO because it is too “technical”, you may be sacrificing performance that could be yours with a technically sound website.
We hope that we’ve given the information and tools you need to perform a basic technical SEO audit your website. If you’re interested in learning more about Seer’s Technical SEO service, reach out to us here.