Why I Created a Technical SEO Checklist
I wrote this technical seo checklist because it is becoming evermore important to pay attention to it. As Google’s algorithm becomes more focused on detecting User Experience behavioral patterns, technical SEO is becoming more important each day. Many people overlook technical SEO and focus solely on content. If that is you, then frankly, you need a better strategy. Without a solid technical SEO foundation to stand on, you are setting your campaign up for failure.
Technical SEO is normally executed at the very beginning of an SEO campaign. If you are optimizing a website being redesigned, you should first start off with a SEO website redesign audit, which involves some additional steps in your SEO process prior to launching the website. That said, here are 8 technical SEO tactics you should be implementing on every website you optimize.
1. Technical SEO Requires Sites to Be Mobile Ready
A website that is mobile ready means more than using a responsive framework. There are several additional technical factors that come into play. Be conscious of the fact that mobile devices that aren’t hooked up to wi-fi don’t load data as quickly, so it’s important that your website is blazing fast. Today’s standards suggest that your page load time should be less than 1 second.
Google provides a free tool called PageSpeed Insights to help you test your website.
As you can clearly see, Mobile website factors go far beyond a responsive design. Fixing the items listed in the image above will help your site perform better and load faster. Items like enabling compression and leverage browser caching are simple to implement. It simply requires some minor additions to your .htaccess file (using Apache).
If you find that your website is failing the PageSpeed Insights test, follow the instructions listed in the report and read the documentation provided. If implemented correctly, you will surely start seeing faster page load times.
2. USE HTTPS
More and more studies have begun to show that websites using HTTPS are beginning to
gain share of urls ranking on 1st page. Even if you don’t require a secure encryption,
using HTTPS can provide your website with some ranking benefits, especially if you are
in a highly competitive niche.
3. Implement Proper 301 Redirects
This is important because Google considers the www – version of your home page and
the non-www version of your website’s home page as two separate pages. This is
because www is just a subdomain. So to prevent your rankings from being hurt due to
duplicate content issues, create a 301 redirect going from the www version to the
non-www version or vice-versa.
4. Plan a Strong Website Architecture
A strong website architecture not only leads to a better User Experience, but it also helps
you rank better. Ensure that your website is easy to navigate and that your interlinking
structure makes sense for the user.
Moz does a great job explaining this concept in one of their Whiteboard Fridays.
5. Make Use of Structured Data Whenever Possible
If you aren’t familiar with structured data, now is a great time to start learning. Use
schema.org as a reference guide. They provide examples on how to implement and properly use structured data.
One example of a situation where you would benefit from using structured data is if
your local business website has contact information such as your Company Name,
Address and Phone Number. In this case you would use Local Business schema
markup which specifies each piece of your contact information (e.g. Name, Address,
City, State, Postal Code, etc…)
Google recommends that you use structured data throughout your website and has
mentioned that it will be even more important moving forward.
6. Prevent 404 Crawl Errors After Launching a Website Redesign
Now this is a pretty big one. If you are redesigning a website with new content, architecture and url structure, you will need to create a 301 redirect plan prior to launching the new website.
When you launch the new version of your website, Google doesn’t eliminate the old page urls from their index right away. Therefore, anyone who clicks on your search result will end up finding themselves on a 404 Not Found page. To prevent this from happening, you should create a document listing all of your redirects, and apply them to the .htaccess file as soon as the new redesigned website launches.
Even then, you should be using Google Search Console to monitor crawl errors closely over the next few weeks. Sometimes there will be pages you missed that you can fix as soon as Google detects it.
7. Configure Your Robots.txt File
Robots.txt files come in pretty handy when you have specific pages that you don’t want
being indexed in Google’s search engine. For instance, maybe you built a custom Content Management System and you don’t want your admin area to get indexed… or maybe you have a directory with important documents that you want to keep out of Google search. This is where robots.txt files can help you. It’s a simple txt file containing a series of commands for robots like GoogleBot and other crawlers to follow.
8. Create and Submit Your Sitemap.xml File
This is a commonly known SEO tactic, but also very important. Always create a
sitemap.xml file and submit your sitemap to Google using Google Search Console. You
can specify which pages take priority of importance over others and help Googlebot
understand the intended structure of your website.
9. Use Optimized Hosting or Configure Your Server
You need to leverage browser caching, enable gzip compression and configure specific security measures. Keep your site running on a fast server, optimized for speed.
10. Use Meta NOODP and NOYDIR Tag
In some cases, you may find that your Title tag in the search results isn’t displaying the
way it’s supposed to. This could perhaps be the effects of Google using your DMOZ title
over the one you set in the head of your page. To prevent Google from manipulating
your title tags, you can use the META NOODP and NOYDIR tag.
11. Use Canonical Links
If you are nervous about doing that, and you don’t have a developer on hand to
help you, at least use a canonical tag. Canonical tags tell search engines which version
of the page you prefered to be displayed. That way Google can ignore one version of the
page and index the version you specify in your canonical tag.
12. Use AMP-HTML
AMP-HTML Stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, which is a new standard for mobile search. Google created the framework in 2015, which allows pages to literally load instantly on your mobile devices. If you are using wordpress there are several plugins that will help you install AMP HTML. Otherwise, you will have to customize your code and follow Google’s guidelines.
13. Use Open Graph Meta Tags
There are several wordpress plugins that will help you implement these tags. These simply help you control what people see in their news feeds on social media. You set the image, title and description.
There are many other technical SEO factors to be aware of. This list will definitely give you a good start. You can also download copy this technical seo checklist on Google sheets.