So, you think you’ve mastered Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but have you really identified all the necessary elements to find success in search?
SEO is much deeper than developing high-quality content and keywords. In fact, this is only about half of the battle! If you truly want to master SEO, you need to ensure your on-page and off-page SEO strategies are up to par.
Including technical SEO elements can impact a site’s ranking significantly. Keep reading to learn what technical SEO is and why it’s so crucial to your site’s success in search.
Table of Contents
- Including technical SEO elements can impact a site’s ranking significantly.
- Technical SEO is a broad field that covers numerous high-level elements.
- If your website is full of technical SEO errors, you’re simply not going to rank.
Technical SEO Defined
According to Moz, traditionally, the phrase “Technical SEO” refers to optimizing your site for crawling and indexing, but can also include any technical process meant to improve search visibility.
Technical SEO is a broad field that covers numerous high-level elements. Here are just a few examples:
- Response codes
- Canonical tags
- Structured data
- Page speed
- Crawl optimizations
- Internal links
- Site architecture
- URL structure
- Thin and/or duplicate content
While this may seem complicated, you may not always need a deep technical understanding of these concepts. Instead, you can learn to identify and communicate these issues to your web development team to help get them addressed.
It’s important to have a healthy and close relationship with your developers to tackle SEO challenges from both sides successfully. Don’t wait until a technical issue causes negative SEO ramifications to involve your development team. Instead, join forces from the get-go to avoid the issues altogether.
Why is Technical SEO a Must?
You may think you have the best site with the best content. But, if your website is full of technical SEO errors, you’re simply not going to rank.
To set your site up for success, search engines need to be able to locate, crawl, understand, and index the pages on your website. But it doesn’t stop there.
If search engines like Google can successfully index all of your website’s content, that doesn’t mean your job is complete. For your site to be fully optimized for SEO, covering all of the technical aspects is an absolute must.
Does this mean that your technical SEO has to be flawless to rank? No, it doesn’t. But, it’s worth ensuring your site is free from potentially detrimental errors.
How to Ensure Your Site is Free From Technical SEO Issues
One of the best ways to ensure your site is optimized for Technical SEO is to run a Technical SEO audit. For those that don’t have access to fancy SEO tools or technical know-how, this is easier said than done. To help simplify technical optimization, we’ve put together a free and easy-to-use Technical SEO Checklist down below. Refer to the detailed instructions included in this blog to ensure your site and its pages are clean from technical errors.
Laying a Strong SEO Foundation
To follow this checklist, there are a few things you need to do first if you haven’t already.
1. Set up Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) is a tool that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s performance in Google search results. You can learn how to set up this tool here.
2. Set up Google Analytics
Google Analytics (GA) is a free analytics tool. You can connect your GSC to GA to view helpful SEO information inside your GA account.
3. Install and Configure an SEO plugin (if you are using WordPress)
If you use WordPress, you’ll want to install and configure an SEO plugin. This makes optimizing your site for search engine crawlers easy and helps with a few technical SEO elements.
A few of our favorite SEO plugins include:
4. Create and Submit a Sitemap
A sitemap is an important file that helps search engines find, crawl, and index your website’s content.
If you’re using WordPress, a sitemap will be automatically created for your site.
If you’re not using WordPress, you can easily create a sitemap with a sitemap generator tool.
Once you have your sitemap, submit it to Google Search Console.
5. Create a Robots.txt File
Robots.txt is a file that tells search engines which pages and files they should or shouldn’t crawl. Robots.txt files are a super important technical SEO element.
You can view your robots.txt file by typing your homepage URL and adding /robots.txt.
For example, https://www.smamarketing.net/robots.txt
Learn more about creating one and Google’s best practices here.
Now you’re ready to use the Technical SEO Checklist to ensure each page on your website is fully optimized!
Technical SEO Checklist
Make Sure Your Web Page is Indexable
An important part of your overall SEO strategy is to ensure Google can index the pages on your website. When reviewing your site for technical SEO, this is an absolutely vital step. If Google can’t crawl and index your pages, all the other work you’ve done is thrown out the window.
You can check to see if your web page is indexable by using the URL Inspection Tool in Search Console. Watch the video below to learn more.
You can also check your site for indexability issues by using a free crawling tool like Screaming Frog or SEMrush.
If you find that your page is not indexable, there are a few things you can do.
1. Review the potential issues preventing your page from being indexed in Search Console. Address each issue and request indexing on that URL again in Search Console. Check back in a few days to see if the URL is indexable.
2. Check if your webpage is using a noindex tag using this test. If it is, you’ll need to remove the noindex meta tag from your HTML code. Request indexing on that URL again in Search Console. Check back in a few days to see if the URL is indexable.
3. Check your page’s settings using your SEO plugin. Your page may be no indexed due to a selection made in your SEO plugin settings. Request indexing on that URL again in Search Console. Check back in a few days to see if the URL is indexable.
Sometimes, indexability can be a site-wide issue. If your entire site is not indexable, you’ll want to address this promptly; otherwise, none of your content will be seen. If you’re having issues getting your entire site indexed, see this article here.
Ensure Your Web Page is Mobile-Friendly
Having a mobile-responsive site is crucial to your SEO strategy. In fact, in 2018, Google transitioned to mobile-first indexing. This means it now focuses primarily on using the mobile version of a site’s content for indexing and ranking.
To ensure your web page is mobile-friendly, run a scan using Google’s free mobile-friendly test. If the page is mobile-friendly, you’re good to go! If it’s not, the tool will provide you with some recommendations like the example below:
Check Your Web Page’s Loading Speed
Run a quick scan of your webpage using Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This tool will help diagnose issues on your site that may contribute to slow page speeds. Address issues as needed and scan your site again when you’re finished to ensure your speed has Improved. Note: Some of the issues identified in a PageSpeed Insights test may require assistance from your web developer.
Make Sure Your URL is Using HTTPs
HTTPS has been a ranking signal since 2014.
You can easily confirm that your site utilizes HTTPS by looking at your browser’s URL bar.
If you see a padlock to the left of the URL, you’re using HTTPS. If you don’t, you’re not using HTTPs and your site’s security may be at risk.
Identify and Fix Broken Links
Broken links not only create a poor user experience but can also have a negative impact on your site’s SEO. To identify broken links, you’ll need to run a crawl on your site using a tool like Screaming Frog or SEMrush, which offer crawls to help identify high-priority issues like broken links.
Broken links need to be addressed promptly. There are various ways you can fix broken links on your site, depending on the type of broken links you have. Learn more about addressing broken links using the Broken Link Checker browser extension here.
Use an SEO-friendly URL Structure
SEO-friendly URL structures make it easier for search engines to crawl your pages and understand the content on them. Your URLs should be simple, descriptive, and concise. They should include hyphens between each word and no underscores.
Here’s an example of a not-so-SEO-friendly URL:
Add Structured Data
Increase your page’s odds of earning rich snippets (or rich results) for your target keywords and search queries by adding structured data. Some structured data markup types are often implemented automatically by a site’s template. You can check to see if your page has structured data by using the Schema Validator tool. If your page isn’t utilizing any structured data, you can easily implement some basic schema markup with the help of an SEO plugin.
Identify and Address Crawl Errors
To identify potential errors that may be impacting your site’s SEO, you’ll need to run a crawl on your site using a tool like Screaming Frog or SEMrush. Various on-page and technical issues can be identified with the help of a crawling tool. Here are a few examples:
- Duplicate content issues
- Dead links and 404s
- Indexing issues
- Speed issues
- Mixed content issues
- Title tag and meta issues
Watch the video below to learn how to run a quick SEO crawl and audit in Screaming Frog and Google Sheets:
Check Search Console for Manual Actions
Black-hat SEO tactics that attempt to manipulate Google’s guidelines may cause penalties, such as manual actions. If your site has a manual action, some pages (or your entire site) won’t appear in Google’s search results.
It may not be fully apparent that your site has been impacted by a manual action which is why double-checking is a quick step worth taking. You can easily check this information under the “Security & Manual Actions” menu option in Search Console.
Technical SEO: The Bottom Line
To generate more traffic and better engage your visitors, having a fully optimized website is key. Take the time needed to review your site, fix any errors, and optimize it to its full potential. The easier you make it for search engines, the better chance your web pages have to rank in organic search.
Looking to improve your SEO strategy? Contact SMA Marketing today. As SEO industry experts, we have the skills and knowledge to drive organic traffic to your website. Check out the Ultimate SEO Checklist, where we detail the major elements your site needs to give search engines the valuable information they need. Click below to download our FREE comprehensive SEO Checklist!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 24, 2020, and has been updated with fresh content.