The technical SEO plays a prominent role in the website optimization because it has nothing to do with the actual content of the website or with website promotion. The main goal of technical SEO is to optimize the infrastructure of a website.
What is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO refers to the process of optimizing your website for the crawling and indexing phase. With technical SEO, you can help search engines access, crawl, interpret and index your website without any problems.
Some of the following are best Technical SEO Practices:
Now that it’s clear what is technical SEO, let’s see what are the best practices to follow. You can use the recommendations below to carry out your own technical SEO audit.
1.Specify a Preferred Domain:
When setting up your website or blog, you need to specify your preferred domain. By doing so you instruct search engines as to which variation of the domain you want to use throughout the lifetime of your website.
Let’s see why you need to do this.
A website by default is accessible with www and without www in front of a domain name.
For example, if your domain is example.com, your website can be accessed by both http://www.example.com and http://example.com (i.e. without the www).
While this is ok for users, it is confusing for search engines because they consider these as two different websites.
This means that you may encounter indexing issues, duplicate content problems and loss of page rank.To solve this problem, you need to set your preferred domain and inform search engines about your choice.(likely www or no www?)
One of the questions many people have is whether to use www in front of their domain or to go with the non-www version.There is no SEO advantage from choosing the one justify over the other, it’s a matter of personal preference.
We prefer to have “www.” in front of the domains because it seems more natural but there is nothing wrong if you decide to go with the http (or) https version.
2.Optimize your Robots.txt:
Once you are done with setting your preferred domain, the next step is to check and optimize your robots.txt file.
What is robots.txt ? Robots.txt is a text file residing in the root directory of your website that gives instructions to search engines as to which pages of your website they can crawl and add to their index.The format of this file is very simple and in the majority of cases, you don’t have to make any changes to it.
3.Optimize Your URL Structure
Next item in your technical SEO audit list is to revise the URL structure of your website. By URL structure we mean the format of your URLS.Best SEO practices dictate the following about URLS:
- Use lowercase characters
- Use – to separate words in the URL
- Make them short the descriptive
- Avoid using unnecessary characters or words
- Use your target keywords in the URL without keyword stuffing
In general, once you define the format of your permanent link structure, the only thing you will have to do is to optimize your URLS when publishing new content.
If you are using WordPress as your CMS, you will notice that when creating a new post, WordPress takes your post title and creates the URL.
For example, if this is your post title “10 Technical SEO Best Practices For Beginners”, the URL generated by WordPress will be http://www.example.com/10-technical-seo-best-practices-for-beginners.
This is not bad, but you can make it shorter like this http://www.example.com/technical-seo which is more targeted and easier to remember.
4.Redesign Navigation and Website Structure
The structure of a website is a very important SEO factor for many reasons.Users are more likely to stay on a website longer and find out what they want faster and search engines can understand and index a website easier.
A big mistake many webmasters make in their effort to optimize their websites for conversions, they forget about navigation and site structure and they end up damaging their SEO.
Google does take into account the overall structure of a website when evaluating a particular page and this is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Of course, your category pages should be optimized if you want to have any benefit.
In addition, as stated by Google – A well-defined structure helps webmasters pin-point to Google the important content of a website, something that will greatly help in pushing higher in rankings the pages that really matter.
5.Add Breadcrumb Menus
A breadcrumb menu is a set of links at the top or bottom of a page that allows users to navigate to a previous page (usually the category page) or to the homepage of a website.A breadcrumb menu serves two main purposes:
- It helps users navigate a website easily without having to press the back button on their browsers.
- It gives another hint to search engines about the structure of a website.
Breadcrumbs are mentioned as an SEO element in various SEO Guides because they are highly recommended by Google.
If you don’t already have breadcrumbs enabled, make sure that they are enabled on your website and that they have the proper schema.
6.Check Your Canonical URLS
Each and every page of the website should have a canonical URL. This is defined by adding the tag <link rel=”canonical” href=”mypageurl”>, in the <head> of your posts and pages.
What is a canonical URL? – It’s a simple way to tell Google which version of a page to take into account when indexing your website. The concept is similar to the preferred domain where a single page is accessible through various URLS.
You can use the rel=”canonical” when you have pages with similar content, for paging purposes and to avoid duplicate content issues when you add content to your website from other websites. As a general rule, you should specify a canonical URL for all your website pages.
The simplest way to check if your website provides for a canonical URL is to visit any of your pages, right click anywhere on the page and select VIEW SOURCE. Search for “rel=canonical” and investigate the value.
7.Optimize Your 404 Page
A 404 page is shown to the users when the URL they visited does not exist on your website. Maybe the page was deleted, the URL was changed or they mistyped the URL in their browsers.
Most modern WordPress themes have optimized 404 pages by default, if not you can easily make your 404 page SEO friendlier by using a plugin or editing your theme templates.
What is an optimized 404 page?
An optimized 404 page should:
- Have the same structure and navigation menus as your website
- Tell visitors in a friendly language that the page they are looking for is no longer available
- Give them alternatives (suggest other related pages)
- Make it easy to go back to the previous page, your homepage or other important pages
8.Optimize your XML Sitemap
One of the most important elements of technical SEO is the XML sitemap optimization.
An XML Sitemap is an XML file that lists all pages/posts available on your website. Besides their title it also includes the published date and last updated date.
Search engines can use the XML sitemap as a guide them when crawling a website.
How to optimize your XML Sitemap? XML sitemap optimization is simple, only include in your sitemap the pages that are important for your website. In the majority of cases, these are your pages, posts and categories.
Don’t include in your sitemap tag pages, author pages or other pages that have no original content on their own.
Make sure that your sitemap is automatically updated when a new page is published or when a page is updated.
Use the Google search console and Bing Webmaster tools, to submit your sitemap to Google and Bing and check the status.
For more information read this guide: How to optimize your XML Sitemap for maximum SEO.
9.Add SSL to Make Your Website HTTPS
The latest trend on the Internet is about security. HTTPS is a known ranking signal and an additional way to establish trust with your users.
When you install an SSL on your server, your website can be accessed using https and not http. This indicates that any information transferred between your website and server (such as usernames, passwords, personal data etc) is encrypted.
In the past, SSL was important for ecommerce websites but nowadays any website on the Internet should have an SSL installed.
If you don’t have SSL installed the first thing to do is to contact your hosting provider and ask them to enable SSL on your account and then you need to follow a migration procedure to activate SSL on your website without losing your rankings.
Adding an SSL is similar to migrating to a new domain so you will have to follow the procedure with care.
Read my previous guide: How to migrate your website to https without losing SEO for step-by-step instructions.
10.Website Speed – Faster is better
Another known ranking signal is website speed. Google is mentioning the importance of speed in all their SEO recommendations and studies confirm that faster websites perform better than slower websites.
Website Speed and Bounce Rate
Tackling website speed is a technical issue and it requires making changes to your website and infrastructure to get good results.
Your starting point is to check your speed using three tools:
- Google page speed insights
- Pingdom tools
- Google mobile speed tool.
The above tools will give you some recommendations on what you need to change to improve your speed but as I mentioned above it’s a technical issue and you may have to hire a developer to help you.
In general, what you can do to make your website load faster is the following:
Upgrade your server to use 64 bits operating system
Optimize the size of your images.
Minimize the use of plugins
Upgrade WordPress and all plugins to the latest versions
Don’t use heavy pre-made themes. They add a lot of code that is not needed, better invest in a custom-made theme.
Optimize and minify your CSS and JS Files
Using a caching plugin to serve cached pages to users
Avoid adding too many scripts in the <head> of your website
If you are on WordPress you can also read my previous article: How to increase WordPress site speed for more actionable tips.
Having a mobile friendly website is not optional. Most probably the majority of your users are on mobile and with the introduction of the mobile first index by Google, if you don’t have a fast, mobile friendly website your rankings will suffer.
Mobile friendliness is part of technical SEO because once you have a mobile friendly theme, that is properly configured, you don’t have to deal with this again.
It’s also a task that requires technical knowledge on how to set it up.The first thing to do is to check the mobile friendliness of your website using this tool from Google.If your website doesn’t pass the test, you have a lot of work to do and this should be your first priority.
Your mobile website should have the same content as your desktop site. With the introduction of the mobile first index, Google will try and rank mobile websites based on their mobile content so any content that you have on desktop should also be available on mobile (including any internal links or other elements available on your desktop website).
Your mobile website should load in less than 6 seconds (when tested on 3G).
It is normal to have a lower conversion rate on mobile (compared to desktop), but that does not mean that you shouldn’t try and optimize your mobile website as much as possible.
Note that Avoid using popups on mobile
If you already have a responsive website, then most probably you won’t have to worry about the mobile first index but if you are having a separate mobile website on a subdomain or folder, then make sure that it has the same content as your desktop website.
Technical SEO Checklist
- If you have reached this point, then most probably you have a very good idea now on what is technical SEO and why it is treated separately from on-page SEO and Off-Page SEO.
- Even if you have done this before, it’s always a good idea to perform a technical SEO audit of your website, and this is your technical SEO checklist.
- To further check the optimization level of your website, you can perform a general SEO Audit, which includes a lot more checks that go beyond technical SEO.
- Technical SEO Audit is also covered as part of our SEO Audit Services.
- Specify a preferred domain in Google Search Console and WordPress
- Check and optimize your robots.txt
- Check and optimize your URL Structure
- Rethink your navigation and website structure
- Add breadcrumb menus to your posts and pages
- Add schema markup for breadcrumbs
- Add structured data to your homepage
- Add structured data to your posts
- Add structured data to other pages (based on their type)
- Check your canonical URLS
- Optimize your 404 Page
- Optimize and submit your XML Sitemap to Google and Bing
- Enable HTTPS
- Check your loading speed and try to make your website faster
- Check the mobile friendliness of your website
- Consider adopting Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Technical SEO consists of a number of checks and settings you need to optimize to help search engines crawl and index your website without any problems.
In the majority of cases, once you get your technical SEO right, you won’t have to deal with it again, other than doing periodical SEO Audits.
The word technical implies that you need to have some technical knowledge to carry out some of the tasks (like page speed optimization, adding structured data, etc.) but it’s necessary to do it otherwise your website won’t reach its full potential.