Technical SEO is probably the most important aspect of SEO and is also the least sexy. If the technical SEO on your site is lacking, then I don’t care how good your content is. You’re likely not going to rank. That’s why when I work with a new client, the first thing I do is a Technical SEO audit. It sets a foundation for all the SEO work to come.
The nice thing about technical SEO is that once you’ve gotten squared away, there’s not much more that needs to be done.
What Is It?
Technical SEO is the process of getting your website optimized so it can be crawled and indexed by search engines. Technical SEO helps search engines find and catalog your site. The easier you make it for them, the easier they make it for you.
As the name suggests, technical SEO is all about the infrastructure of your website. It has nothing to do with the content you produce.
We all know search engines all use search queries to give users the sites they’re looking for. But before this can happen, search engines have to crawl and index a site. Think of them as a librarian that has to log and understand every book in their collection. So that’s what search engines do when they crawl a site.
They look at three things: Technical SEO, On-Page SEO, and Off-Page SEO. On-Page SEO has to do with the content and the specific page. And Off-Page SEO is related to link building and what other websites have to say about your site.
When a search engine crawls a site, it doesn’t just look for content. They look for a safe site that provides a good user experience. They also look for authoritative sites as well. The Former is the domain of Technical SEO.
Some Best Practices
Get You Sitemap Optimized –
This might be the most important thing you can do from a technical SEO perspective, assuming you have a well-functioning site.
Your site map is an XML file that lists all the pages and posts on your website. Search engines use site maps as guides or “maps” when they crawl your site. Furthermore, make sure you submit your site map to the search engines for even better results.
Most SEO plugins for WordPress have a sitemap feature in their setting and configurations.
Specify a Preferred Domain –
Do you use www or not? This article explains it better than I could.
Set and Optimize your Robots.txt File –
A robots.txt file tells search engines how to read your site when crawling a site. It sits in your root directory and is the first thing they check when they get to your site. So not having a robots.txt file is not the worst thing in the world; the search engines assume all pages are available to be crawled and indexed. That being said, you should have one.
The thing with a robots.txt file is they can cause trouble if they are formatted incorrectly. This is because a robots.txt file tells a search engine to skip over certain pages. Because of this power, any errors in the robots.txt file can have major SEO ramifications. You can read more about robots.txt here.
Optimize Your URL Structure –
There are some quick and easy rules to follow when making URLs for your site:
- All Lower Case Letters
- Keep Them Short and Descriptive
- Make Sure it Has a Keyword, but don’t overdo it
- Use “-” for spaces
Do not change your current URLs that are providing traffic. This will ruin the organic traffic you are already getting. Instead, apply these rules to future pages.
Have a File and Page Hierarchy –
A clean and easy-to-use website will always rank higher. Make sure your site has a structure that is tailored to usability.
Use Bread Crumbs –
They improve navigation and are highly recommended by Google.
Use Structured Data –
Structured data is coded in the HTML of a site that provides more information about your webpage. For example, if you use an SEO plugin like Yoast in WordPress, the description and some other options at the bottom of the post are structured data.
Canonical URLs –
Make sure every page has a canonical URL. Essential canonical URLs provide more information to the search engines crawling your site. You can learn more about how they work here.
Take care of 404s –
404s happen when a user tries to go to a page that doesn’t exist. This can happen with typos or if you change the name of a URL. Make sure you have a good 404 page that’s well-formatted.
Furthermore, if the 404 is caused by you moved a page, use redirects to fix these issues.
Make Sure Your Site is Mobile Friendly
Most web traffic these days is done on mobile phones. Search engines know this and prioritize sites that are made for mobile phones. So if you’re using a WordPress theme, make sure it looks good on mobile and that it is fast.
Add SSL to Your site so that you have an HTTPS Site –
This is a relatively new preference from Google. But security is important to make sure your site is secure.
Make Your Website Fast as Hell –
A good portion of technical SEO is a good user experience. Because of this, Google will prefer faster sites to slower sites. I recommend using Page Speed Insights. It is a Google tool that tells you how fast your site is and gives recommendations to improve your site. Always try to maximize your speed score.
Finally, Google Search Console
Google Search Console(GSC) is a webmaster tool created by Google. You submit your URL, and it gives you valuable information on your website. It gives you metrics to see how your site is performing. And GSC provides you with insights on the technical SEO on your site. This is also where you would submit your sitemap.
This tool is invaluable; if any errors on your site are hurting your SEO, GSC will tell you. I highly recommend using it and becoming familiar with it. See my Google Search Console Walkthrough post to learn more about GSC.