Expert’s Guide to Technical SEO (With a Handy Checklist)


by Aleksandra Stefanovic | Dec 23, 2022

Are you looking to improve your website’s ranking in search engines? You’ve come to the right place. In this expert’s SEO guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about technical SEO – from what it is and why it matters to actionable tips and tricks for improving your website’s ranking.

We’ve also included a handy technical SEO checklist with instructions for those who want to get more hands-on with optimizing their website.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Defining Technical SEO: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Technical SEO is a specialized form of search engine optimization that focuses on enhancing the underlying foundation of your website – it’s an invisible form of web mastery that facilitates organic rankings. It encompasses all techniques and processes used to ensure that a website is crawlable, easily accessible, and user-friendly. Creating webpages with clean code, quick page loading time, easy navigation, and optimized URLs are all examples of technical SEO methods.

It can be thought of as the nuts and bolts of an effective SEO strategy – tinkering with the settings, fine-tuning technical elements, and making sure that everything is running smoothly behind the scenes so that you can maximize visibility in SERPs. Yes, it’s a bit like a car’s engine – not necessarily glamorous, but absolutely necessary for optimal performance.

Without paying diligent attention to the technical elements of SEO, even your swankiest content won’t see the light of day. In short, the importance of technical SEO cannot be understated – you must ensure technical SEO isn’t overlooked on your journey toward those top search rankings!

Benefits of Technical SEO (With Examples): Why Technical SEO is the Crucial Piece of Any Digital Marketing Strategy

Technical SEO is a vital piece of any successful digital marketing strategy. It refers to the optimizations made to a website on the backend that helps make it easier for search engine crawlers to access, crawl and properly index its pages for better visibility in searches.

From ensuring a site’s code is clean and well-structured to ensuring a fast-loading page speed, technical SEO takes into account many factors and technical elements that make a website as easy as possible for search engines to understand.

For example, adding proper titles and meta descriptions can help boost click-through rate (CTR) from organic listings – something nearly all businesses want more of. Technical SEO consultants are often best suited to handle these optimizations, providing expertise on increasing website performance in terms of both usability and visibility.

By following Technical SEO best practices, businesses can improve their website’s visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) while simultaneously creating an enjoyable user experience. Not only can implementing technical SEO tactics lead to higher click-through rates, but it can also help prevent indexing issues that can occur if websites don’t adhere to established guidelines for coding languages like HTML and CSS.

Considering its wide range of benefits for organizations, it is clear why technical SEO should be a core component of any comprehensive digital marketing strategy. Incorporating technical SEO into your online marketing strategy will ensure your website is easily found by the major search engines – optimizing it the right way can deliver huge benefits in the competitive digital world. A must for anyone trying to survive and thrive in one!

Technical SEO vs. On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO: Key Differences

Search engine optimization can feel like a confusing beast to tackle. But don’t worry – it’s not as complicated as it seems. This big, scary monster’s core is quite simple when you break it down into its three major components: Technical SEO, On-Page SEO, and Off-Page SEO.

If you’re feeling a bit confused, don’t worry— these three branches of SEO can leave one scratching their head and can be as daunting to many experienced marketers and website owners as it is to beginners! Let’s boil it down.

  • Technical SEO (or simply tech SEO as some enthusiasts like to call it) refers to the processes and functions that help your website get indexed by search engines.
  • On-Page SEO relates to the content and components found on your individual web pages like keywords, headings, and meta titles.
  • Finally, Off-Page SEO is comprised of link-building tactics used off the page itself. Together, technical, on-page & off-page SEO make the holy trinity of SEO.

Feeling overwhelmed? We hear you… Which is why we’re about to break down technical SEO into easily understandable and actionable steps. Stay tuned.

Technical SEO Basics: Technical Elements & All the Gory Details You Didn’t Ask For (but Need to Know!)

Technical SEO refers to all the behind-the-scenes optimizations necessary for your website to perform well in search engine rankings. And you need to own it to make your site tick and run like a well-oiled machine. Luckily, you don’t have to be an advanced tech guru or an expert in web development to understand what it takes to make your website appear on Google’s first page. All you need is a solid technical SEO strategy! And it all starts with an extensive audit.

A technical SEO audit can unearth all the hidden gems and help websites optimize their full potential. Whether you are an SEO expert or a newbie, not paying attention to the technical aspects can be a costly mistake. From robots.txt files to ensuring all images have Alt tags and more, a robust SEO audit ensures that your website has all its ducks in a row for ranking success – don’t let anything be overlooked!

On that note, let’s cover some technical SEO basics (that should be part of your technical SEO strategy!) to get a firm grip on the matter.

  1. Crawling and Indexing

    robots-txt
    Crawling and indexing is a big part of the behind-the-scenes of the SEO journey
    – these two peas in a pod of SEO are essential technical SEO components. Crawling is when search engine bots scour the web and scan through your website and its content. Bots follow links across websites to figure out what content is valuable to users.

    This allows them to find new pages and enlist existing ones into the indexing directory. Indexing then processes all these pages and stores this information, allowing for more efficient searches when users enter queries. Indexing is essential for storing and organizing the crawling results so they can be quickly retrieved by users – it determines how websites are ranked and ensures relevant content is delivered at a lightning-fast speed.

    Implementing robots.txt directives and canonicalization (a way of “telling” search engines which URL they should crawl in case there are multiple variants of the same page) is how you can ensure your content gets crawled and indexed down to a T.

  2. Site Speed and Performance

    PageSpeed tool

    If you’re looking to give your SEO score a boost, site speed and performance should be your number one priority – they’re essential components of success in the realm of technical SEO.

    Beyond the negative user experience implications of slow page speeds, these factors have a much larger impact on your standing in search engine rankings. Search engines factor page speed alongside other indicators like content hierarchy, crawlability, mobile usability, and more when crafting their SERPs. You can always use Google’s PageSpeed Insights or other tools to analyze a page’s performance and Core Web Vitals stats.

    After all, nobody likes a slow-loading website that takes ages to respond, and that includes search engine crawlers. The ultimatum? Improve your site speed or face being lost in the depths of SERP forever! If you want to benefit from organic traffic, fast loading times are a must. Spending time on improving site speed and performance ensures that users and bots can access your website with the smoothest possible experience.

    You need to ensure your website’s user experience is in top shape, starting with Core Web Vitals. Core Web Vitals are an essential part of SEO as they break down the user’s real-world experience on a page. They refer to an array of website metrics relating to the quality of a website’s user experience, which Google uses as indicators of a healthy website. Use them to keep your site’s speed and performance in check!

  3. Mobile-Friendliness

    Mobile friendly test

    The world has gone mobile. Let’s face it – most of us surf the web from our phones and tablets nowadays and if a website isn’t optimized for mobile use, then you can kiss visitors goodbye!
    In today’s modern world, no website can survive without being mobile-friendly – it has changed the way businesses approach SEO as mobile optimization is now absolutely essential for ranking well on search engine result pages, and the pillar of good SEO. Why?

    Well, Google adapted to today’s mobile-first world and predominantly crawls the mobile version of a site’s content for indexing and ranking. This means that your site’s mobile version should be your priority. If you don’t have a mobile-friendly version of your website, the desktop version can still be indexed, but could negatively impact your rankings. On the other hand, a website with a seamless mobile experience could potentially get a boost in rankings, even for desktop users.

    Technical SEO also relies on a perfect balance between speed, usability, and accessibility. That is why mobile-friendliness is so crucial in this equation – with it comes responsiveness and seamless navigation on mobile devices which improves your page’s performance. Not only does this provide a better user experience overall but it also helps you target a larger audience of users and score some points with search engines after they identify your website as mobile-responsive.

    For those who aren’t already onboard, you may want to reconsider – because your competition certainly is!

  4. Structured Data & Schema Markup

    Structure data of a blog post

    Another key element of successful technical SEO involves structured data and schema markup – the invisible code which provides search engines with detailed information about your website and its content.

    Schema markup provides valuable information to crawlers, allowing them to decipher your web pages’ meaning better. This process helps search engines understand website content better by providing useful information through code (using in-page markup that the information applies to) that isn’t visible to a human user.

    Plus, Structured data enhances user experience by giving high visibility to rich snippets and can even help you rank for Google’s featured snippets in SERPs. For example, you can implement the review, offer, or price schema markups if you have a product page. Answering users’ questions? A FAQ schema would be great!

    Embrace the power of structured data and schema markup, and watch your website’s search visibility soar!

  5. Website Architecture

    breadcrumbs

    Have you ever been on a website that just felt… wrong? But you couldn’t put your finger on why? Bad website architecture might have been the one to blame.

    Just like an architect builds a house, a good website structure builds a strong web presence, allowing users to navigate it easily. Ever heard of the golden three-click rule? It’s an unofficial rule for website navigation design suggesting that a user should be able to find any information on a website with no more than three clicks.

    A messy website architecture usually leads to “orphan pages” (pages without any internal links pointing to them), and ensuring your visitors can easily find their way around is a must. One way to do so is by using breadcrumbs – contextual links that function as a website navigation aid to help users find their “way back home”.

    Logical website structure and internal linking patterns not only help optimize crawlability but enhance user experience and increase pageviews too! So don’t leave building your dream website up to chance – make sure it has a solid foundation with an easy-to-navigate architecture.

  6. Security (SSL/HTTPS)

    The image shows how to check if a site has an SSL certificate

    Online safety of our customers and visitors should be at the top of your technical SEO checklist too! There’s no denying the importance of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) when trying to maximize organic visibility. As far as Google is concerned, nothing speaks louder than a website with a secure connection – and we certainly agree!

    SSL and HTTPS are the cornerstones of secure browsing, and their implementation is an essential step toward keeping your site safe and secure. Not only does it provide encryption, but it also adds an extra layer of protection against malicious activities by extending data integrity to your users.

    As search engines continue to prioritize sites with good security protocols, having an SSL certificate to ensure that sensitive data is transmitted securely between the server and the browser could give you that extra edge over those who neglect this simple step.

The Technical SEO Checklist

Do you ever feel like your website gets stuck in an endless loop? You make improvements, add fresh content, and spam social media, yet it still feels like Google hasn’t got its act together and indexed all those juicy pages of yours. Don’t worry; there’s no need to rail against the mighty search algorithmic overlords any longer – this is where technical SEO comes in to save the day!

Technical SEO doesn’t have to be intimidating. With a bit of knowledge about how search engines work and some crucial optimization techniques under your belt, you’ll be well on your way toward improving your website’s online presence in no time. With this handy checklist in hand as a reference point, you’ll be armed and ready when it comes time to tackle technical SEO and any challenges it might bring down the road.

Let’s dive right in.

Keep Your Domain Game Strong

authority score

For any website looking to dominate the technical search engine optimization (SEO) game, domain is a key factor. Domains increase search power by maximizing search equity and strength for your root domain while minimizing security concerns.

Domain history – the age, registration length, and other details regarding your web address, all have an effect on your Domain Authority (DA) – a search engine ranking score developed by MOZ used to predict how likely a website is to rank in SERPs, which speaks of your site’s relevance for your industry, market, or a specific topic. Domain Rating (DR) is a similar metric developed by Ahrefs, used to assess the strength of a website’s backlink profile compared to other sites on a 100-point scale.

Specifying a preferred domain – choosing whether you want the www or non-www version of your domain to appear in the search results – is crucial. While users may choose one on a whim, it might confuse search engines and lead to indexing and page rank issues due to duplicate versions of your site. You must indicate the version you prefer to ensure your users will be directed to the correct version of your site whether or not they include the “www” portion.

There is no advantage to choosing one over the other but once you make up your mind – stick to it by all means!

Create XML Sitemaps & Add Structured Data for an SEO-Friendly URL Structure

Play media structure

An XML sitemap is a file that helps search engines understand your website better whilst crawling it – a powerful tool for giving web search engine spiders a comprehensive guide to your website, telling them exactly where each page is and what it’s about.

After all, you want your URLs to follow a clean, consistent, logical, and SEO-friendly URL structure to help both users and bots understand “where” they are on your site. Your URLs should be short and descriptive, with hyphens used to separate the words.

By allowing crawlers to discover pages on your website systematically, you’ll save hours of effort communicating the ins and outs of your site structure. The best practice is often as simple as mapping out a logical structure by using structured data. To avoid XML sitemap errors, keep it up-to-date and make sure all links listed work so your page will receive its due credit from web crawling algorithms.

Oh, and consider including your XML sitemap in robots.txt, too, for some extra SEO juice. If you want to strategically stop search engines from crawling and indexing certain pages on your website, you can always use blocked by robots.txt.

Also, pay attention to your site’s crawl depth – the number of clicks between a page and the homepage. The deeper a page is buried in your website structure, the less likely users and search engines will be able to find it. You can use Screaming Frog to analyze the crawl depth of your pages. Remember the three-clicks rule we talked about? If your page is more than three clicks deep – you need to flatten your site structure.

Use Hreflang Attributes

hreflang tag
Hreflang tags let Google and other search engines know which version of a page should show up in search results, depending on geographic location. They help ensure that customers who speak different languages or are located far away can easily find the content that is best tailored for them, making them the ideal solution for international websites.

Using hreflang tags is a surefire way to raise your site’s technical SEO and provide an optimal experience for your users. It means killing a couple of birds with one stone: reducing bounce rates, increasing conversions, and avoiding duplicate content but only if you manage to avoid common hreflang pitfalls and do it right.

Create Canonical Tags & Avoid Duplicate Content

A canonical tag basically tells the search engine which version of a webpage should be recognized as original and, thus, should be indexed. This way, if any near-duplicates are floating around on your site, the search engine won’t get confused and waste your crawl budget. They allow you to inform Google about which version of a page they should index and rank and where to consolidate “link equity.”

Using canonical tags to avoid duplicate content is kind of like a cheat code for SEO. But don’t be fooled; effective use of canonical tags requires some understanding of how these powerful little pieces of code work to avoid making some of the common canonical tag errors that can cause issues, like, for example, having your canonical tags on incorrect pages.

Check Your 301 Redirects

301 redirections in wordpress
Redirects in SEO refer to an HTTP code – a way to automatically send users and search engine bots from the URL they requested to another one without them leaving the site and, ideally, without noticing anything. As such, they should be used to direct traffic away from, for example, broken links to a new or more relevant page. They can be internal or external.

Avoid common redirecting errors related to redirect chains, redirect loops, and broken redirects, which can result in the dreaded 4xx and 5xx pages, and update any temporary (302) redirects to a 301 redirect when the move is permanent.

Know Your Status Codes & Fix Any Errors

404 page
Speaking of the devil… Webpages can return different HTTP status codes in response to requests made by browsers. One of the most common status codes are the notorious 4xx errors, designed to inform clients that a problem has arisen on their end. However, they’re not all gloomy – there are 2xx success status codes, too, bearing the good news that the request was received and processed successfully.

Any crawling or link errors need to be resolved immediately. You can quickly identify them in Google Search Console.

Links, links… And More (Live!) Links

Page link errors, such as dead links and broken links lingering on your website, may be killing your SEO game. They take up Google crawlers’ precious time without delivering much, all while making frustrated users bounce right upon arriving – not the best impression, you would agree!

For the sake of a good search engine rating and a satisfying user experience, you want to be sure all the links on your website are working correctly. Keep a close eye on them to ensure optimal performance – stay one step ahead by regularly auditing your site, identifying them through Screaming Frog or Google Search Console, and redirecting or removing any bad, broken, or dead links, whether internal (inbound) or external (outbound).

In other words – “link live” or die trying!

Use Technical SEO Tools to Your Advantage

Google Search Console

Savvy SEOs and website owners never fail to leverage Google Search Console (GSC) and Bing Webmaster Tools. Not only do these powerful tools provide insight into how your site is performing, but their sophisticated algorithms can be used to tweak your SEO strategy for maximum efficiency and visibility on their respective platforms. In other words: they’re essential if you want to climb the search engine rankings.

Google Analytics is a free online analytics tool that can assist you in monitoring your site’s or app’s traffic volume, source, and user activity with reports providing invaluable insights into your business.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider Website Crawler can help you can detect broken links and redirect chains, duplicate content on your site, and more. It’s easy to see why this little crawler has become the Swiss knife of SEOs: you can use it to crawl your website and analyze meta tags, link structure, and page content – it even catches broken links! Plus, it’ll give you a breakdown of all your on-page issues.

With these amazing SEO tools at your disposal, you’ll never miss an opportunity to optimize your website for maximum visibility and engagement. So go ahead – take charge and put yourself ahead of the technical SEO game.

Taming the Technical SEO Beast

Technical SEO can often leave digital marketers in a whirl, trying to understand what it all means. If you followed our guide to Technical SEO step-by-step (and didn’t get too lost in the weeds), your site should be well on its way to better Rankings, Traffic, and ROI. Congratulations! You should now be able to tame the wild technical SEO beast.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day—but it was definitely built by people who knew what they were doing. Technical SEO is the crucial piece of any solid marketing strategy puzzle, so make sure you put in the time and effort to not only tame but master it. We promise it’ll be worth it in the end! Think of it this way: if you want your page to move from the dark depths of cyberspace onto that coveted first page – you’d better make sure you nail technical SEO!

Remember to keep our handy checklist above close as you begin making changes—it should keep you organized during this process, so nothing falls through the cracks moving forward. However, if technical SEO skyrockets your stress levels, Play Media has the solutions you need to right the ship.

Need a Hand?

With decades of experience under one roof, we’re a digital marketing agency committed to staying up-to-date on the latest trends that understands what it takes for your website to make an impression—and more importantly, perform. We’ve run countless successful campaigns that deliver maximum ROI and have earned us a reputation as one of the top players in the field.

So, if you’re looking for someone to help you leap over any hurdles that come with technical SEO, our team is here to answer the call and provide a smooth digital marketing journey!

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