In the digital landscape, nothing spells “visibility” quite like SEO. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is your gateway to the vast world of online recognition and credibility. While many of us are aware of on-page and off-page SEO strategies, there’s a third pillar that’s equally crucial: Technical SEO. This guide serves as your technical SEO checklist, discussing the often-overlooked yet invaluable strategies that make for a successful SEO campaign.
What Is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO is the practice of optimising your website’s infrastructure (the back-end) to make it easier for search engine crawlers to crawl and index the web pages found on your website. It ensures that all the technical components of your website are up and running quickly, minimising any potential issues with indexing or rankings.
Distinguishing The Types Of SEO
But unlike these, technical SEO doesn’t deal directly with content or external relationships. Instead, it creates a foundation that supports these elements, ensuring your site can be crawled and indexed efficiently.
Why Is Technical SEO Important?
Think about it like this - owning a Ferrari is great, but without proper maintenance, the car won’t take you very far. The same goes for your website - technical SEO optimisations ensure that the “engine” runs without any hiccups.
This allows both users and search engines to find your content quickly and easily, improving your overall ranking potential.
Technical SEO Checklist: The Essentials
Here is a written checklist of the essential technical SEO factors. (But if you want, you can also have a look and download our checklist here.)
Website Crawling and Indexing
Search engines use bots to crawl the web, and the smoother this process, the better your chances are for a high ranking. Thus, it’s essential to ensure that your website is easily crawlable and indexable.
But how can you check for crawl and index errors? Simply do the following:
- Log into Google Search Console
- Navigate to the 'Coverage' tab
- Investigate and address any errors found
Site Speed Optimisation
Slow and steady might win the race in some scenarios but not in website performance. A laggy site can negatively affect your user experience and SEO efforts.
Use one of these tools to assess the site speed:
After you’ve tried one of the site speed tools and see that your site speed is below average, there are a few things you can do to improve it:
- Optimise images for web
- Use lazy loading
- Enable browser caching
Given the surge of mobile browsing, a non-optimised website is virtually invisible in today’s mobile-first landscape.
Think about it - what device do you use more often to search the internet? Your answer is most probably “my mobile device,” right?
So, how do you determine whether a website is mobile-friendly? Try these methods:
- Utilise Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test
- Implement a responsive web design
- Optimise load time for mobile users
An XML sitemap is your site’s blueprint that enables search engines to quickly find and index your content.
If you don’t already have an XML sitemap, here are some steps you can follow to create and submit one:
- Use a sitemap generator tool like XML-Sitemaps
- Upload the XML file to your root directory
- Submit it to Google Search Console for indexing
- Ensure the sitemap is up to date by regularly refreshing it and updating any changes made
Canonical tags guide search engines to the original content, avoiding the risk of duplicate content penalties.
Duplicate content is when a website or page shows the same content as another website or page. To avoid this, add canonical tags for the original page on any duplicates you have created.
To add canonical tags, open the duplicate page and add a rel=” canonical” tag into the <head> section of the page.
A robots.txt file gives search engines a roadmap of which pages to crawl and which to ignore, optimising your site’s crawl budget.
This is helpful for large websites as it prevents search engine bots from spending too much time crawling pages that you don’t want to be indexed.
To create a robots.txt file, open your web hosting platform and upload the new file into the root directory of your website. When creating your file, make sure to focus on whether a page should or shouldn’t be crawled; there is no need to give any other instructions.
Mistakes that you should avoid when creating a Robots.txt file:
- Blocking essential pages
- Unclear or conflicting disallow directives
- Not including a sitemap
- Forgoing to check old robots.txt files
A 301 redirect tells us when a page is no longer available and automatically redirects users to an alternative URL.
301 redirects are important for SEO because they ensure that any links or mentions of the old page still direct users to a new page, preserving link equity and preventing 404 errors from appearing on your website.
It’s important to note that 301 redirects should only be used when the page is really gone. If there’s a chance that you may bring back the old page in the future, then use a 302 redirect instead.
When creating 301 redirects, make sure to:
- Redirect all pages to relevant new URLs
- Keep the same link structure as much as possible
- Use permanent redirects for pages that are gone forever
- Use 302 redirects when you want to bring the page back in the future
SSL certificates are vital for encrypting data, boosting both site security and user trust. It’s relatively easy to get an SSL certificate, but it’s important to make sure that you set up the secure layer correctly.
To start, check for any mixed content warnings and ensure that your site has been fully migrated from http to https.
Once you have installed the SSL certificate, make sure to:
- Monitor your website for errors
- Renew your certificate regularly
- Update your site links to the new secure version
- Set the Secure flag for session cookies
Structured Data Markup
Structured data markup is an important way of conveying information about a site to search engines. It helps search engine crawlers “read” and interpret information on a page, making it easier for them to understand the content and rank pages accordingly.
Here, you’ll need to work with HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and Schema.org to add structured data to a website, so it’s best to consult a professional at an agency providing web development services or use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper Tool if you’re not familiar with this type of coding.
Common Technical SEO Mistakes To Avoid
Technical SEO mistakes cause big problems, so it’s important to take care when making changes. Here are some of the most common technical SEO mistakes to keep an eye out for:
- Ignoring 404 errors
- Forgetting mobile optimisation
- Non-SEO-friendly URLs
- Poor redirect setup
- Low website speed
- Not optimising images
These are just a few of the common technical SEO mistakes to avoid. Be sure to keep an eye out for any warning signs and address them as soon as possible, as they can have serious implications for search engine rankings.
The End Of Our Technical SEO Checklist
In the complex world of SEO, the technical aspects can easily become lost or overlooked. However, without a solid technical foundation, even the most compelling content and robust backlink profile will struggle to achieve their potential.
So don’t procrastinate; start implementing these elements from your technical SEO checklist today and give your website the solid foundation it needs.
If you ever need any assistance from professional technical SEOs, Starbright’s SEO services in Gauteng are always ready to help.