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Technical SEO checklist

What is Technical SEO and How is it Important for Your Site’s Ranking:

Is the term “Technical SEO” scary for most of the bloggers and marketers who are from a non-technical background?

The simple answer is “NO”. They must not. 

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Anything related to crawling your site, indexing your content and improving site’s search visibility by the search engine spiders is Technical SEO. 

All the technical SEO factors, related to speed and visibility are not equally important. But when you ignore one, you must be aware of the consequences of that. Because some of them are super important and critical in search engine ranking like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and more. 

As a great marketer, you are not complete until you cover the complete SEO checklist and its crucial dimensions. The key components of SEO are On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO, and Technical SEO. 

In one research of Zoompf, the popular Technical SEO problems for most of the websites are loading speed, unoptimized images, serving content without HTTP compression, too many CSS image requests, and expired headers (no caching information). 

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Some other technical SEO factors that create issues are excessive usage of the plugin, not using CDN for static files, and purchasing a slow web hosting. 

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Click to get the list of the best web hosting for WordPress sites.  

An Ultimate Guide on Technical SEO for Beginners and Pro (2021):

1. Core Web Vitals

Google announced Core Web Vitals will become ranking signals in May 2021, that combine existing page-experience related signals. Therefore, make sure to optimize your site based on Core Web Vitals that includes 3 specific web page experience metrics:

Core Web Vitals Google ranking Factor
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  • Largest Contentful Paint- LCS (Loading Speed): Ideal measurements within 2.5 seconds of landing on a page
  • First Input Delay- FID (Interactivity): Ideal measurement within 100 milliseconds after landing on a page
  • Cumulative Layout Shift-CLS (Visual Stability): Ideal measurement is less than 0.1

Google has a total of 6 ways to measure the Core Web Vitals of your webpages:

Core web vitals measurements technical seo
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To optimize the site with Core Web Vitals,  Google recommends “AMP” to be a simple and cost-effective way to optimize for this page experience signal. As the majority of AMP pages achieve great page experiences.

Make sure you have 0 Poor URLs in the Google Search Console, Core Web Vitals Section.

2. Secure Your Site With HTTPS

HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol whereas HTTPS is a “Secure” version of HTTP. 

Google officially announced that HTTPS is now a ranking factor. So, secure your site’s domain with SSL certificate as it not only secures your website but also improves SEO.

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Secure your website with HTTPS for Technical SEO
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Also ensure that your site has a Single Site Version, meaning that your website does not have its multiple versions (HTTP/HTTPS/Without www).

3. Ensure that your site is Mobile-Friendly

If you want to rank better, make sure your site is mobile friendly. More than 56% of users are on mobile devices and thus search engines give it the priority.

As per the study of TechCrunch, 44% of Fortune 500 sites are not mobile-friendly, another 4% of sites are not-responsive at all. This shocking data actually discourages the spiders and robots of Google, Bing and other search engines. 

Make your site Mobile Friendly: Technical SEO Checklist 2020: Site Audit & Best Practices
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Making your site mobile-friendly and optimizing your pages is an easy task. 

But the most common mistakes that people make are:

  • They upload videos that are not playable on mobile. HTML5 videos are the better option an individual should use. 
  • If you are using the wrong redirect approach and landing them on your home page, then it can hurt user experience. Hence, redirect them on the relevant page for which they are looking for. 
  • If you are using too many big pop-ups on your site it can really irritate. People will bounce from your site and will never like to come back. 

One thing people generally ignore is the loading speed on mobile. Generally, mobile phones have slower internet connections than desktop. Therefore web pages load slowly on mobile devices. Hence, optimizing your loading speed especially for mobile devices becomes critically important.   

Mobile optimization requires site architecture design, site structure and page speed. You should not block CSS, JavaScript, or images. 

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4. Improve your site’s Loading Speed: 

In June 2020, Google officially announces that loading speed is a ranking factor. In every second extra loading time, you lose 7% consumers. 

The best and most preferred time to load a site is from 0-3 seconds. If a website loads in between 3-6 seconds, then it is okay and needs bit improvement. 

Technical SEO: Loading speed is a ranking factor
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Whereas most of the sites take more than 6 seconds to load. These sites hurt the user experience badly and irritate them. In this situation, people hardly return to your site. 

Note**: The recommended speed and loading time analysis is for all types of devices such as Mobile, Desktop and Tablet. 

To improve your loading speed:

  • Reduce your web page size
  • Test Load Times with and without CDN
  • Eliminate 3rd Party Scripts
  • Enable Browser Caching
  • Optimize Images (prefer webp files helps in reduction of image size)

5. The Robust Architecture of your site

Your site structure is how all of the pages on your website are organized. A flat structure makes it easy for Google and other search engines to crawl 100% of your site’s pages. Sometimes users can see the pages on your site but Google finds it difficult to view your pages. So, create the architecture of your site in such a way that it is suitable for search engines and users as well. 

Architecture of the website: Technical SEO Checklist 2020: Site Audit & Best Practices
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Also, Identify the crawl errors and see where search engines are struggling to view the web pages and resolve it. 

It should be considered the Step 1 of Technical SEO rather I would say, one among the priorities while you are creating your site. With undefined and poorly designed website structure, it is very difficult for crawlers to understand what page to display a user and thus, due to this may crawling and indexing issues exist. Site Structure includes everything from Basic designing to Hard Technicals to be taken care of. If a site structure is completely organised, you can say that more than 75% of your Technical SEO is done. 

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Also Read: 82 Google Ranking Factors and SEO Checklist [2020]

6. Make your URL Structure SEO Friendly

Make your URLs easy to understand and SEO Friendly. Also, Putting your pages under different categories gives Google extra context about each page in that category. 

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Make short URLs and write it in such a way that it describes what overall your blog is about. Make sure your site does not create the same URLs.

URL structure of the Website: Technical SEO Checklist 2020: Site Audit & Best Practices
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Role and Relevance of the URLs in Technical SEO: 

Every web page on your site must have only one URL. These URLs should have short, clear and friendly sequencing that should not confuse the search engines spiders and humans. 

Examples of URLs:

You should have Paginated URLs:

It is a process of dividing content across a series of pages to bifurcate the list of articles or products into a nice format.  It is a widely used technique and can easily be found in websites like eCommerce, News Publishers, Forums and Blogs. 

Researches and studies show that users and Google bots like dedicated single page content.  So, make sure you have paginated URLs (SEO Friendly URLs).

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7. Breadcrumbs Navigation

Breadcrumb Navigation is one of the important factors that Google Considers. While you fetch your Webpage URL in Google Search Console, you can also see there is a different section of Breadcrumbs found in your dashboard that tells robots about the internal links to categories and subpages on your site. 

 Breadcrumbs Navigation
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You can also now see that Google has turned URLs into breadcrumb-style navigation in it’s SERP.

Internal linking is very important for SEO. As mentioned in On-Page SEO as well, If there’s a specific page you want to index, internal links work best if the page you’re linking from has a lot of authority and gets crawled all the time. 

Internal links improve Session Time, reduce bounce rate, ease indexing and quickens crawling, it combines to give users a great experience on your site.

9. Spot and Fix Crawlability and Indexing Issues

Site Crawling issues can destroy any SEO effort. Technical SEO comes into existence especially because of crawlability and indexing issues. If the website is crawled properly, you can say that major Technical SEO is done as the major technical SEO issues that search engine spiders encounter involve crawling issues. There is a direct relation between crawling and indexing. If spiders can’t crawl your site, then your site can not be indexed.

Crawlability and Indexing Issues
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How can you find that your site has a crawlability issue?

Well, it’s very important! You can use Site Audit tools like Google Search Console, Ahrefs or Screaming Frog 

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10. Use HTML and XML Sitemaps  

Create both types of sitemaps- HTML and XML sitemaps for the search engines and users. It lists the web pages and improves the visibility of these URLs. 

HTML sitemaps are for humans but also directs the search engines spiders and robots to find the pages on your sites. 

HTML and XML Sitemaps: improve the visibility and indexing of your web pages
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On the other hand, XML sitemaps are for bots and spiders not for humans. Moreover, a single sitemap does not exceed more than 50,000 URLs of 50MB. Therefore, if you have a heavy site with too much content, then you will need more than one XML sitemap. 

I would recommend, you should make separate sitemaps for different content formats such as text articles, images, pdfs, ppts, videos and the likes

11. Check robots.txt file  

The robots.txt file tells search engines what URLs not to index. Robots.txt file is a high priority technical SEO factor and it is most often the cause of crawlability issues. It is the first thing that Google bot looks at your site. If you don’t want any particular page to be crawled, you can direct Googlebot by specifying “Disallow” a page. 

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Robots.txt
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How to find robots.txt file?

You can find it from Google Search Console. It shows a list of hosts that provide resources on your site that are blocked by robots.txt rules. 

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12. Pagination on your webpages

Pagination can actually hurt SEO if it’s not implemented correctly. Pagination causes duplicate and thin content issues. Therefore, ensure that you have implemented pagination properly that does not make Google Bot hate you. 

Best Practices for Pagination in favour of SEO:

  • Use Crawlable Anchor Links
  • Modify Paginated Pages On-Page Elements
  • Don’t Include Paginated Pages in XML Sitemaps
  • Handle Pagination Parameters in Google Search Console

13. Thin and Duplicate Content

You do not need to worry if you are creating unique and quality in-depth content for your articles. But there may be several pages on your site with thin content or same content that can negatively impact your search engine rankings. So, you need to find and fix this issue by using tools like Google Search Console, Google Analytics or by using crawling tools. 

Thin and Duplicate Content does not work
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 Thin and Duplicate content can be managed by:

  • Implementing noindex
  • Handling duplication with a disallow statement in your robots.txt file
  • Using canonical tag
  • Using a 301 redirect

14. Use HREFLANG for international websites

Use the Hreflang attribute to inform search engines that sections of your website are intended for different countries & languages. It’s quite tough to set up, so you can refer to Google’s guidelines

Best tips to use hreflang tag are:

  • Placing a tag in any (use only 1) of these locations on-page markup, the HTTP header or the sitemap.
  • Each page should include a reference to itself and to all the pages that serve as alternates for it.
  • Using hreflang tag generator tool

15. Set to AMP Pages (Use Google AMP)

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is designed to load web pages faster on mobile devices. Google has been pushing publishers to use AMP. Some of the websites get infected by using AMP pages, so it is important to check its compatibility before using an AMP code or plugin. 

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Set to AMP Pages (Use Google AMP); Technical SEO Checklist 2020: Site Audit & Best Practices
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Google said that AMPs are just an improvement in the user experience. AMP is not an official ranking factor, but because AMPs improve site load time so it has played a role in SEO.

AMP will help you get in “Top Stories” in SERP feature, though Google has announced Non-AMP pages can also occupy its space to be featured in Top Stories Now.

Added, a webpage that’s been properly optimized for speed might not need AMP for those speed gains.

Broken internal links make it harder for Google Bots to find and crawl your site’s pages. So, you should consider doing an SEO Audit by using the tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs or Screaming Frog to find your dead links and fix them as soon as possible. Though Fixing broken links is not a ranking factor, it degrades the user experience.

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17. Rich snippets and Structured data

Using Schema Markups can give the visibility of your page on SERP as Rich Snippets and Structured Data helps search engines better understand your content. Schema markup makes SERP listing more prominent and improves organic click-through rate. It gives Google extra crawlable information about the contents of web pages as well as advanced information about a page’s theme and contextual purpose.

Rich snippets and Structured data
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Schema markup uses a unique semantic vocabulary in microdata format that you can add to your HTML to boost your website rankings in higher SERPs. 

18. Noindex the Category and Tag Pages

Category & tag pages can cause duplicate content issues for WordPress websites and mostly do not add much value to the users. So, noindex these pages. With tools like Yoast SEO and All in One SEO, you can noindex these pages with one click. 

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Noindex the Category and Tag Pages
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Make sure that you DO NOT canonicalize all categories and tag pages to the blog root page and DO NOT put these pages in robots.txt. This is an improper use for the canonical and Google will ignore it. 

19. HTTP Status Codes

Determine the HTTP Status codes that exist in a website and then solve these errors ASAP. Different types of status codes that are most visible on pages are:

Redirect Codes: Common HTTP errors are 401, 400, 403, 404, 500, 501, 502, 503. Redirect Error codes are 301 and 302. 

404 Error Code: When you delete any page without redirecting it to 301, the page shows not found i.e., 404 error occurs. Users can not get access to these broken links or pages. Create a custom 404 error page to tell google that it is non-existent.

400  Error Code: Due to 400 errors, users can not go to the page.

403 Error Code: Users are unauthorized to access the page. 

500 Error Code: It happens because of internal server errors. You will need to connect with the web development team to determine the cause and fix it. 

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301 Redirect Code: It is a permanent redirect. 301 code is the most famous error fixing code that you will see throughout your research. If any broken link or 404 pages are redirected with 301.then you will not lose your ranking and traffic. It passes between 90-99% of link power to the redirected page. 301 redirect code is recommended for SEO.

302 Redirect Code: 302 is a temporary redirect code for 404 pages or broken links. If your website is dealing in e-commerce and the product is out of stock then 302 redirect code is feasible. It redirects any Page URL for a short time such as 3 months or less than that. 

Note: Avoid Lopping 301 redirects. 

20. Open graph tags

Open Graph meta tags make your content more clickable, shareable and noticeable on social media. Open Graph meta tags are snippets of code that control how URLs are displayed when shared on social media. 

Open graph tags
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They’re part of Facebook’s Open Graph protocol and are also used by other social media sites, including LinkedIn and Twitter (if Twitter Cards are absent).

Open Graph meta tags make your content more clickable, shareable and noticeable on social media.

You can find them in the <head> section of a webpage. Any tags with og: before a property name are Open Graph tags.

21. Redirect old URLs to new URLs 

If the site or page is redesigned /migrated, remember to redirect all the old URL to the new URL. If this is not done, it will lead to a broken link that will ultimately loosen the session time and user experience, which is not good for a site. 

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Redirect old URLs to new URLs
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Most importantly, if you don’t redirect old URLs to new URLs, you will lose your existing organic ranking and traffic with time. You can use a tool like Redirection that helps with even automatic redirection that will not let your site down on SERP.

22. Intrusive Interstitial

Intrusive interstitials are essentially popup ads. They tend to block most or all of a page, leading to a bad user experience for desktop and mobile users alike.

Intrusive interstitials examples
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Here are a few examples of how Intrusive Interstitial goes wrong:

  1. The interstitial covers most or all of the content on a page.
  2. The interstitial is not responsive. That means it is difficult or impossible to close it on a mobile, rendering the page useless for mobile users.
  3. The interstitial is not triggered by an action, such as “Sign-up to Subscribe.” Rather, it pops up on its own without prompting, creating an unpleasant surprise for the mobile viewer.

Set up Tracker for Analysis and Roadmap:

Install Yoast SEO or All in One SEO (WordPress users only)

If you have no background and expertise in technical then installation of Yoast SEO or All in One SEO can solve your various problems in a very easy-going way. These tools offer you many pre-built plugins that make the life of blogger or marketer easier. 

Set up Google Analytics

It is a product of Google that gives you the complete data analysis of your readers. Google Analytics is completely free and powerful software. With the set up of GA, you can track session time, bounce rate, traffic, behaviours, demographic, geographic, age, gender, interest, device, location of your audience coming on your site and more.

Install Bing Webmaster Tools

Most of the bloggers and marketers keep trying to rank on Google and they assume Google is the only search engine that can drive traffic and bring revenues. 

But here is the mistake. 

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Another search engine Bing has more than 20% market share in the USA and more than 9% market share worldwide. As per Microsoft, Bing has an astonishing 33% market share which is around 5 billion searches on the web. 

So, grab it as an opportunity and install Bing Webmaster Tools and multiply your growth, traffic and conversion. 

Set up Google Search Console

Google Search Console helps webpages to index. The Google Search console hooks your ranking by giving you the specific data about index status, crawl status, HTML improvements, structured data, sitemap submission, Site errors, links to your site, search analytics and more. 

Hence, do not delay in installing Google Search Console. 

Other Promotional Trackings

You should also track external promotions, internal promotions, outbound links and social sharing. It will give you the overall marketing idea of promotion. Apart from it, many links hurt your sites rather than healing, These links are bad for your site. So, it is better to keep tracking them and keep removing those links. 

SEMrush
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Conclusion:

The technical SEO has been concluded with an infographic below:

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Technical SEO Checklist to boost site's ranking
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You want to share this infographic on your upcoming or existing blog?

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Email me at sugandha@theblueoceansgroup.com, and I will give you the setup.☺️

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