The SEO on a well-optimized website is like an iceberg: a good chunk of it is visible to the naked eye, but there’s a whole lot more going on below the surface.
That’s the beauty of technical SEO, though. When it’s working like it should, it’s nearly invisible. And yet, there is so much to technical SEO. Without the right digital partner, you might struggle to address all of your website’s problems.
Technical SEO is the framework for all the other website elements to follow. Even sites with killer content won’t be in the best positions to rank organically if their technical SEO is in a bad place.
If Google has been stubbornly keeping your web pages lower than you think they should be, bad technical SEO could be the problem.
In that case, you may want to let an industry leader such as LSEO audit your site and recommend changes. Our SEO experts have years of experience upgrading the technical SEO of enterprise-level websites.
What kinds of issues do we usually find? We have prepared this complete technical SEO checklist to educate you in the kinds of problems we can clean up on your site.
Keep in mind before you dive in that not every item here will be relevant to every website. We wanted to cover all the bases, but that doesn’t mean your website will have encountered all these issues.
I. Keeping Track of Data
1.) Set Up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
Before we even get into any technical SEO issues, we always make sure we’re tracking all data associated with your website’s organic performance. That way, we’ll be able to see the lifts you get once we start implementing your SEO.
Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools are the platforms we look to for this. Each one shows you how your website is doing in organic search through data points such as impressions, clicks, and the keyword rankings for pages. This is incredibly useful data to track as we improve a website’s technical SEO.
2.) Set Up Google Analytics
The other preliminary step before starting any real technical SEO work is to set up Google Analytics. While Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools track a website’s performance related to search engines, Google Analytics tracks the amount and behavior of users who come to your site.
Using Google Analytics, you’ll be able to see all the traffic to your site, the channels where it comes from, and what people do once they’re on your site.
For example, our experts can tell a lot about the quality of a web page if it has a consistently high bounce rate and a short average session duration.
II. Improving Crawlability and Speed
Now that we’ve got our primary tracking tools set up, we can start in on the technical SEO improvements. It makes sense to begin with the crawlability category of technical SEO. After all, if Google isn’t even finding a site, then it’s definitely not seeing any on-page SEO that you add to it.
1.) Submit Your Sitemap to Google
One of the best moves you can make to improve your website’s crawlability is to submit your sitemap to Google through Google Search Console.
Sitemaps are files you create that lay out and organize the URLs on your website so Google’s crawlers can “read” your site more easily.
Google will still crawl your website without a sitemap, but large sites especially will benefit from creating sitemaps and submitting them to Google. This just makes it easier for the search engine to find all your pages.
When we submit your sitemap to Google, we just go to Google Search Console>Sitemaps, and then add your sitemap URL.
2.) Improve Your Server Response Time
Next, we make sure your server response time is as optimized as it can be. If you have a slow server response time due to slow application logic or routing or even just a bad server from the start, that means Google will have a hard time crawling your website.
Improving your server response time will be a decision for you to make. It could be as simple as switching hosting providers, although larger companies with bigger websites may have their own servers, and replacing or improving them can get complicated.
4.) Compress Your Images
Another element that can slow your website down and affect its crawlability is uncompressed images. This is an issue that we have found most people don’t know about.
Think about it: you need images for your site, so you download a few stock images and then upload them to your blog posts. The problem is that those images can be well over a megabyte or two in file size.
In website terms, that’s gigantic.
Compressing and reuploading those images is the best way to eliminate this problem, and it’s something we do for clients all the time at LSEO.
5.) Eliminate as Many Redirects as Possible
Most websites have redirects implemented, and some for good reasons. If you’ve moved or deleted a page on your site, you’ll want to redirect its URL to a working page so users don’t get pointed to a broken page, or 404.
Sometimes, though, website owners implement unnecessary redirects to the point where redirect loops are created. Those occur when pages keep redirecting to a series of other pages before finally landing on a working page.
Another mistake is implementing and keeping temporary redirects, or 302s, on your website. Temporary redirects are meant to keep users and web crawlers away from a page until you’ve finished working on it. They are supposed to be eliminated when this work is done.
The problem with too many redirects is that they slow down your website’s time to load and the time it takes search engines to crawl your pages. Where possible, it’s always a good idea to eliminate as many redirects as possible.
Finding unnecessary redirects is part of our SEO audit process at LSEO, and it’s an issue we’re happy to look at for you.
6.) Create a Robots.txt File
Every website should also create a robots.txt file to tell search engine bots which URLs can and cannot be crawled. Website owners can make rules for their robots.txt files, such as disallowing this or that search bot from crawling a particular page.
If you don’t have a robots.txt file, or if you know you need one, but the process confuses you, LSEO can help. It’s a foundation of technical SEO that we implement for our clients all the time.
7.) Convert to HTTPS
Google prefers secure sites, and has since 2014. Therefore, if you haven’t already, you’ll need to switch your unsecure HTTP site to HTTPS by purchasing an SSL certificate.
This website security encrypts data exchanged on your site and gives users peace of mind that their information is safe.
8.) Optimize Your URL Structure
Search engines like URL structures that they can read and interpret easily. You can help by defining a simple URL structure for your website.
An example of an optimized URL structure might look like this:
That structure keeps things organized. You have the domain name, the top-level domain, and then the directory, or file path “/posts,” followed by the name of the post.
When you create new pages on your site, be sure to choose a URL that describes the page. Ideally, the URL should match the page’s title as closely as possible and contain a keyword if applicable.
However, don’t stuff URLs with keywords. Focus on making them descriptive and useful.
III. Optimizing On-Page SEO
Now that you’ve fixed up your site from a crawlability perspective, we can finally get into on-page SEO.
The steps we’ve taken to this point made sure that Google could find our hypothetical website. Now, we’re going to optimize the site so Google ranks it well among competitors.
1.) Perform Keyword Research
Keyword research and usage on your pages are foundations of any SEO strategy. You’ll need to employ the right keywords throughout your website to give yourself the best chance of ranking for the terms that matter to you and that your target audiences are searching.
Doing keyword research is an article all its own, but know that you’re in good hands with the experienced SEO experts at LSEO.
We’ll listen to the terms that you’d like to rank for while researching ideas we have, as well. We will also run a competitive analysis to see who’s beating you in search and where your best keyword opportunities are.
2.) Optimize Title Tags
Title tags are the titles you give your web pages. They appear in the SERPs and are generally the first thing users see when they come across your site on Google and other search engines.
Google reads your title tags and assigns a certain SEO value to them, so it’s vital that you use appropriate target keywords in those tags.
For instance, an online discount raincoat retailer called Raincoats for Less might have the following as an optimized title tag:
Discount Raincoats for Men and Women | Raincoats for Less
Including descriptive and keyword-optimized title tags on your pages has two main benefits. The titles help your pages to rank and tell users what they will find on that page.
3.) Write Detailed Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are the other text elements that appear on search engine result pages, or SERPs. Google does not factor meta descriptions into your website’s SEO value, but it is still important to write meta descriptions for each important page.
That’s because real people will be reading those descriptions to determine if they’re interested in clicking on your page. The right descriptions will briefly tell users what they can find on your page. In turn, descriptions can help boost the click-through rate of those pages, which tells Google that a page is worth ranking.
4.) Add Content Heading Structures
The content on every page of your site should be structured with the proper headings. Google reads headings in content to learn what the content is about.
The heading structure on a web page starts with Heading 1, or H1, and progresses down the line to H2, H3, and so on.
It’s the logical way to structure content. Each page should have just one H1. Then, the page can have as many H2s as necessary to break up the text. H3s fall under H2s and go off on even more specific tangents.
Headings hold a lot of SEO weight, and so it’s a best practice to include target keywords in those headings. Doing this will help search engines determine that this content is relevant to certain search queries, and it will give your pages better chances of ranking for their target terms.
5.) Interlink within Content
SEO runs on links. Google likes to figure out which pages are related to other pages so it can determine the relationship among them.
When you produce content, it’s vital to interlink to related pages of your site within that content.
Once again, this practice serves two purposes.
Interlinking helps Google make thematic sense of your pages, since the pages you link to should be relevant to the page being linked from. Interlinking also keeps users moving through your site. This raises your click-through rate and brings users closer to converting.
6.) Fix Broken Links
Since we are discussing interlinking, it’s crucial to mention that broken internal and external links make for a bad user experience and tell Google that your website is of a low quality.
Now, keep in mind that broken links happen to just about every website: pages move, and things get forgotten.
When we crawl your website during an audit, we find and correct all broken links. Usually, the answer is just to redirect the links to working pages to fix the error.
After all your links are once again flowing to 200-level pages, or working pages, your standing with Google should improve.
7.) Add Canonical Tags to Eliminate Duplicate Content
If you produce a lot of content around the same subject, sooner or later, you might end up writing content that’s considered a duplicate. Or maybe your website has duplicate content that was produced when you switched from HTTP to HTTPS.
In any case, duplicate content is bad because Google will be forced to choose one version of the content to rank. Or, it could think you’re trying to game the system and rank none of that content.
Duplicate content is never good. How do we fix it?
The best way is to apply canonical tags to the back end of the duplicated pages. Canonical tags tell Google which page to rank over the others. This way, you can retain those content pieces on your site without worrying that the best of them won’t rank.
LSEO uses a series of SEO tools to find duplicate content and other issues on your site. It’s all part of the SEO audit process.
8.) Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly
Every website owner should know this by now, but it’s still worth mentioning: your site should absolutely be mobile-friendly.
That means having a responsive design that can be accessed seamlessly on any device. It also means ensuring you have good mobile page speed. You can check PageSpeed Insights for a pretty clear picture of how your site is performing on both mobile and desktop.
9.) Optimize for the Core Web Vitals
A more dev-heavy technical SEO fix is to ensure your web pages are optimized for the Core Web Vitals.
The Core Web Vitals were part of Google’s 2021 page experience update. There are three vitals:
- Largest contentful paint – a measure of the time it takes the largest content piece on the page to load
- First input display – the time it takes a page to load its first interactive element for users
- Cumulative layout shift – the amount of shifting of the content elements on a page
You can probably tell from the three vitals that no one wants their web pages to have loading problems. And yet, today, Google takes the Core Web Vitals so seriously that there is a report for them in Google Search Console.
Just a few extra seconds of loading time can make your web pages fail in Google’s eyes.
Since Google has moved sharply to a page experience and user-first model these days, your website absolutely needs to be optimized for the three Core Web Vitals.
Our complete guide to the Core Web Vitals explains more about how LSEO can help you meet the Core Web Vitals standards.
10.) Add Structured Data Markup
One part of technical SEO that we love implementing at LSEO is structured data, also called schema markup.
In simple terms, structured data is coding that is added to the back-end files of a web page to help search engines understand the pages more easily.
Structured data exists for all kinds of web pages. There is structured data for blog posts, FAQ pages, homepages, products, how-to articles, local businesses, and so much more.
Adding structured data to your pages can really give them the edge over those of your competitors. We’ll recommend the best structured data to add to your website when we audit your site.
11.) Add Image Alt Text
All the images on your site should contain alt text. That is simply descriptive text placed into the code of the image file.
The text is there to help visually impaired readers who can’t view the image but want to know what the image is. Alt text also appears on the page when images break so that users can still know what you intended to have there.
Let LSEO Handle Your Website’s Technical SEO
As you can see from this checklist, overhauling the technical SEO on a website is no small task.
It involves a combination of SEO tools and human ingenuity, both of which we are known for at LSEO. Our SEO audits have driven the growth of enterprise-level business in all verticals, and we would love to talk to you about doing the same for your website.
Get in touch with LSEO today to augment your in-house team with the most widely trusted agency in the industry.