In 2023, businesses in seemingly every domain rely on high-performing websites more than ever. Any commercial organization with online representation can gain a boost in revenue by taking the top positions in Google. The competition, however, is often tricky. According to Forbes, a new website is built every three seconds. Chances are, you will have many competitors, whether your business operates in E-Commerce, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Banking, Tourism, or another sector.
How to stand out and get customers? The answer is to dominate Google in search rankings. According to Statista, as of January 2023, Google had 84.69% of the worldwide desktop market share of leading search engines. And that trend will likely continue in the foreseeable future.
Technical search engine optimization is a process in which you make changes and adjustments to the website and server to improve website performance and usability and help search engines crawl, understand, and index the content better. As a result of this process, your website will have more chances to rank higher and gain organic traffic.
Technical SEO covers the following areas:
There are multiple ways to do technical SEO: you can do it yourself or hire experts to fix certain areas for you. If you are in the legal industry, for instance, you can get the services of SEO professionals dealing specifically with law firms. In any case, there are some pro SEO tools available on the market, like SE Ranking. Their website audit tool scans your website and provides a health report. In a matter of minutes, it creates a list of all website performance errors, security issues, broken links, and redirects, just to name a few, along with recommendations on how to fix them.
Even if you have great content, outstanding design, and a mobile-friendly interface, it is not guaranteed that your web pages will appear on the SERPs of your potential customers if there are technical issues blocking your website from being crawled. That is why it is necessary to have regular site audits and an established technical optimization process to make your website accessible and attractive to search engines.
We've discussed the basics. Now let’s dive deep into this guide and discover the details!
One of the main ways that crawlers understand the structure of your website and discover its pages is by following internal links, so make sure to check them regularly and organize them properly.
Speaking of redirects, the same audit process works with broken links.
When there are multiple redirects between the initial URL and the final destination, it is called a redirect chain (for example, Starting URL A -> URL B -> Target URL C). It may cause indexing issues, decrease the authority of your pages for Google, and slow down page load speed. You can identify redirect chains with pro SEO software and ensure there is only one 301 redirect from the initial to the target URL.
The situation when URL A is redirected to URL B while URL B is redirected to URL A is called a redirect loop and can be considered a closed chain of redirects. A redirect loop comes with ERR_TOO_MANY_REDIRECTS. This wastes your crawling budget, harms website usability, and should be fixed immediately.
Authoritative pages are the most important for businesses since they contain valuable information and get the most visitors organically. It makes sense to boost them with internal linking to potentially receive even better rankings from Google.
Among other best practices is creating internal links to new pages. For example, a fishing tips list on your blog might not yet be posted on popular external resources. Still, an organically added internal link from your other relevant and successful article may add some authority to the newly created page.
Orphaned pages are pages that don’t have any internal links pointing to them at all. They are an issue because search engines have a hard time discovering them. To avoid orphan pages, have all new pages covered in your sitemaps and internal URL structure.
Google introduced Core Web Vitals in 2021 to offer a set of standardized metrics to help developers understand how users experience a web page. Google claims that Core Web Vitals do not affect indexing directly but rather help to improve user experience.
There are three key metrics:
You can check the Core Web Vitals of your site in Google Search Console.
There are multiple ways to improve site speed. Start by making sure that you have a good hosting provider and that you have optimized your server settings to minimize server response time.
If you are using a website builder or CMS like WordPress, using heavy templates and themes can affect page loading speed dramatically. Additionally, with WordPress, it may be a good idea to use caching plugins that reduce the number of requests to the server. In any case, learn how WordPress works and make sure that you use the themes, blocks, and plugins that you need.
Some other popular methods include:
The Document Object Model (DOM) is a programming interface for web documents. When loading each page, the browser builds the DOM tree, which can also be reduced to improve loading speed. You can reduce the number of nodes in the DOM tree, as well as use server-side rendering.
It’s quite simple here, large images will slow down the loading speed. Use image compression tools for every image on your website to strike a balance between size and quality.
Every time users visit your site, their browsers send HTTP requests for each element on the page. You can minimize the number of those elements, for example, by combining several CSS or JS files into one.
Canonical tags are the HTML tags set in the head section that help search engines determine which version of the same page with different URLs is the main one. For example, you may have the same page in different languages, the same product in different colors, or pagination for articles on your blog.
While optimizing a site for search engines, it is important to have one canonical URL per page. Some pages, intentionally or not, may contain a few links with the rel="canonical" tag.
The format of the canonical tag is simple:
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.example.com/preferred-page"> where the value of the ‘href’ attribute leads to the preferred version.
If you have a blog with articles or service pages, for example, that have similar content without set canonical tags, crawlers may see them as duplicate content, and you will end up with lower search rankings and site visibility.
If the page displays the results of filters or paginated URLs with parameters, the canonical URL should lead to the main version of the page.
For example, if https://site.com/blog.html is the main page, https://site.com/blog.html?page=1 should have <link rel="canonical" href="https://site.com/blog.html">.
A robots.txt file tells search engines which pages of the site should or should not be crawled. By blocking canonicals with this file, you could end up with duplicate content issues, which would make your website less attractive to Google.
Another one of the advanced aspects of SEO worth talking about is site structure. Simply put, the structure is the way in which the information is placed on the pages and how the pages are connected.
Tip: Don’t forget to update the XML sitemap after your activities, to ensure that Google notices all changes in the website structure.
Structured data is a standardized format by Google for providing information about a page and classifying the page content. Learn more about how to apply this markup to your website here. Using structured data may potentially get your pages indexed faster, help you obtain higher CTR and more conversions, as well as get featured snippets.
When you create content, it is a good idea to start by identifying the primary topics that are relevant to your particular organization, business, or industry. Then, you can create more narrow and specific subtopics. When you have a list of those subtopics, group them into clusters based on relevance and create and post content according to that. Interlink your content in a way that clearly displays the hierarchy of related content, and make sure to always keep this hierarchy up-to-date.
A featured snippet is a snippet with more options that has a higher chance of being clicked on by a user. Here is an example:
The content from your pages may appear in snippets in the form of paragraphs, lists, tables, videos, accordions, and rich answers, just to name a few.
Search for duplicate content errors (meta titles and descriptions, body content from tag pages, similar content on a different domain, pagination pages)
If there are any duplicate meta tags or other content, they should be fixed ASAP.
To conclude this checklist of practical technical SEO tips, let’s go over some of the most common HTTP codes and errors you may encounter.
As mentioned above, you can use 301 Permanent Redirects for moving or consolidating content, changing URLs or domains, or fixing broken links. A 302 Temporary Redirect is usually used when maintenance on a certain page is being performed.
When you don’t place a redirect from a removed or replaced page, the 404 error will pop up. There is also a soft 404 error when a server returns a generic "not found" page with the 200 (Successful) response code instead of a proper 404 page. Both errors are major technical SEO issues that need to be dealt with. To fix them, you should identify which pages on your website return 404 errors, which is possible with Google Search Console. After that, you can update the page if it exists but was inaccessible because of an issue or use 301 redirects. To prevent soft 404 errors for pages with similar content, you can use canonical tags, which we discussed above.
These errors relate to technical issues with your web hosting provider, and the resulting breakdowns may lead to a bad user experience. If your visitors encounter one of these, you should work with your provider to determine the root cause and find a solution. While speaking with the support team of your web hosting provider, be sure to share all the details about the occurring error, including the measures you’ve taken to fix it. For example, for 500 Internal Server Error, you may find a solution by checking server logs and performing other actions suggested by your provider.
Hopefully, this technical SEO checklist helped you understand how to improve your website’s health and get more value for your business. Make sure to regularly open up Google Search Console or any other webmaster tools and perform a complete technical SEO audit at least once every several months.