Technical SEO Checks: A Complete Guide for 2023
Search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial for businesses looking to improve their visibility and ranking in search engines like Google. While content and link building are important, you also need to optimize the technical aspects of your website. Technical SEO establishes the foundation upon which other SEO efforts are built.
Ignoring technical SEO issues can negatively impact your rankings and organic traffic. With this comprehensive guide, you will learn all the technical SEO checks to perform in 2023 to maximize your search visibility.
XML Sitemap and Robots.txt Validation
The XML sitemap and robots.txt file are two critical technical SEO elements that webmasters often overlook. These two files help search engines efficiently crawl and index your site.
Validate XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is a file that lists all the pages on your website. It helps search engines discover new and updated content faster.
To validate your XML sitemap:
- Make sure the file is accessible at https://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml
- Use online tools like SEO Site Checkup to validate the sitemap and check for errors.
- Submit the sitemap to Google and Bing webmaster tools.
- Check your Google Search Console for indexed pages and coverage report.
- Ensure the sitemap is not blocked by robots.txt.
- Make sure the sitemap is updated automatically when new content is published.
Having a well-formatted and updated XML sitemap improves crawling efficiency and helps search engines index your site faster.
Check Robots.txt File
The robots.txt file gives instructions to search engine crawlers on what pages to index or ignore on your site.
To optimize your robots.txt file:
- Place the file in the root directory of your website.
- Check that the file is accessible at https://www.yourdomain.com/robots.txt
- Use the “Disallow” directive to block irrelevant pages like archives, media files, duplicate content etc.
- Avoid being overly restrictive. Allow major site sections in robots.txt.
- Test the file using online robots.txt testers to identify errors.
- Resubmit the file in Google Search Console if you make updates.
With a properly optimized robots.txt file, you can improve crawling efficiency by preventing duplicate content and thin pages from being indexed.
HTTPS and SSL Certificates
Switching your website to HTTPS and installing an SSL certificate provides security and trust signals to search engines. It can improve click-through rates and rankings.
Use HTTPS on All Pages
To enable HTTPS on your website:
- Purchase an SSL certificate from a trusted Certificate Authority.
- Install the SSL certificate on your web server.
- Use canonical tags or 301 redirects to change any HTTP pages to HTTPS.
- Update sitemaps and internal links to use HTTPS URLs.
- Change standards for third-party assets like images, videos and scripts to HTTPS.
Switching your entire website to HTTPS shows a commitment to security and enhances user trust. Google also uses HTTPS as a ranking signal.
Install SSL Certificate
When installing the SSL certificate:
- Pick a high-grade Extended Validation (EV) or Organization Validated (OV) certificate.
- Enable OCSP stapling for faster SSL handshake and improved performance.
- Use 2048-bit encryption which is faster than higher encryption standards.
- Choose cloud-based Certificate Authority providers that automate issuance and renewal.
- Set up auto-renewal to ensure your certificate never expires.
The right SSL certificate creates an encrypted connection and activates the padlock icon in browsers. This provides a visual trust signal for visitors.
Canonical Tags and Redirects
Canonical tags and redirects help avoid duplicate content and improve URL structure. This strengthens the link signals passed through each URL.
Implement Canonical Tags
Canonical tags tell search engines which page to show in results for pages with duplicate or similar content.
To add canonical tags:
<link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/target-url"> between the
- The href attribute should have the target URL you want indexed.
- Use tags on similar pages like category, tag, pagination, parameters URLs.
- Don’t canonicalize to external domains unless they are exact copies of your content.
Proper canonicalization consolidates equity to target URLs and prevents content duplication issues.
Set Up 301 Redirects
301 (permanent) redirects pass link signals from old to new pages.
To properly handle redirects:
- Set up redirects for any changed or removed pages.
- Use correct 301 status code for permanent redirects.
- Include the
Location header pointing to the target URL.
- Redirect all variations of old URLs including HTTP/HTTPS, www/non-www etc.
- Monitor 404 errors and set up redirects for dead pages getting traffic.
- Avoid chaining multiple redirects.
With precise 301 redirects, you retain and consolidate rankings when migrating pages to new URLs.
Broken Links and 404 Errors
Broken links ruin user experience and signal technical issues to search engines. Identifying and fixing errors maintains site quality.
Check for Broken Internal Links
To audit internal links:
- Usecrawl-based SEO tools like Ahrefs and Semrush to find 4xx status pages.
- Search site for #404 or not found text indicating broken pages.
- Set up internal link tracking to monitor bad links in real-time.
- Validate site menu, navigation, and interlinking for broken pages.
- Check links on key pages like homepage, content, category and landing pages.
Routinely monitoring and fixing broken internal links improves site navigation and search crawler ability.
Identify and Fix 404 Errors
For 404 not found pages:
- Set up custom 404 error pages with site navigation links.
- Implement 301 redirects to relevant pages for important 404 URLs.
- For invalid links, reach out to site owners to fix or remove links.
- Submit updated sitemaps to search engines to recrawl fixed pages.
- Disallow broken pages in robots.txt to prevent crawling.
Analyzing 404 error logs helps find critical issues like broken site links or invalid external backlinks to be fixed.
Site Structure and Hierarchy
Optimizing site architecture, technical setup and information hierarchy enhances the search engine crawling experience.
Logical URL Structure
A logical URL structure improves site organization and navigation. Best practices include:
- Short, simple and descriptive page URLs using hyphens over underscores.
- Avoid excessive URL parameters and session IDs.
- Reflect product or content structure in category/subcategory URLs.
- Use keywords in URLs but don’t over-optimize or stuff keywords.
- Create unique titles and meta descriptions for each page.
Well-planned URL structures signal relevancy and helps search engines understand page focus.
Clear Page Hierarchy
A clear page hierarchy aids crawling by establishing relationships between content:
- Have a clear homepage to site structure with main menus linking to key sections.
- Organize site into logical hierarchies – category>subcategory>product etc.
- Introduce new content through higher-level parent pages and site menus.
- Link related content together using contextual internal links.
- Provide navigation trails like breadcrumbs showing page hierarchy.
With proper hierarchy, search bots can better parse and rank pages based on relevance.
Having a mobile-responsive design is crucial with mobile driving over half of web traffic:
- Use responsive frameworks like Bootstrap or build with CSS media queries.
- Size content elements relative to the viewport width.
- Optimize menus, navigation, images, and text for touch targets.
- Avoid horizontal scrolling which hinders usability on mobile.
With responsive design, all site visitors have an optimal viewing and interaction experience.
Ensure site pages pass Google’s mobile-friendliness test:
- Test site with Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
- Fix issues like small text, blocked zooming, incompatible plugins.
- Set proper viewport meta tag.
- Use clickable mobile menu toggle.
- Size tap targets for easy navigation on touch devices.
Being mobile-friendly enhances rankings on mobile search which accounts for majority of searches.
Optimizing your content for relevant keyword terms improves discoverability and search traffic.
- Identify high-volume, low competition keywords related to your products or services.
- Analyze keywords driving traffic to competitors.
- Combine tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush and Ahrefs for research.
- Track keywords visitors search to reach your site.
- Group keywords into related topics and themes.
Comprehensive keyword research provides a list of terms to strategically target in content.
Your title tags tell search engines the topic of a page. Optimize them with:
- Primary keywords near the beginning of titles.
- 50 to 60 characters long including spaces.
- Unique, descriptive titles for each page.
- Compelling call-to-action language.
- Brand name at end of title tags.
Properly optimized title tags catch searcher attention and inform search bots.
Headings explain the content structure and highlight important topics:
- Incorporate secondary keywords in H1 and H2 tags.
- Break content into logical sections using headings.
- Refrain from skipping heading levels like H2 to H4.
- Format headings to stand out on the page for users.
- Use sentence case capitalization for headings.
Headings containing keywords help search engines determine relevancy.
Image Alt Text
Image alt text provides description and context to images for search engines:
- Accurately describe the image content in brief alt text.
- Incorporate keywords where relevant but don’t overstuff.
- Ensure alt text doesn’t exceed 125 characters.
- Avoid generic terms like “picture”, “image” etc.
- Leave alt text blank for purely decorative images.
Optimized alt text translates images into textual content that search crawlers understand.
Meta descriptions summarize page content and are vital for click-through rates:
- Craft compelling descriptions under 160 characters.
- Incorporate primary and secondary keywords naturally.
- Use different descriptions for each page.
- Add call-to-action language to boost click-through rate.
- Monitor search performance and iterate based on what works.
High-converting meta descriptions encourage searchers to click your result over competitors.
Relevant, informative content ranks well in search engines:
- Publish content focused around specific keyword terms.
- Seamlessly integrate keywords in your writing.
- Include related keywords in the opening and closing paragraphs.
- Use keywords in section headings, lists, and image alt text.
- Vary keyword usage by using synonyms and related phrases.
Optimizing content for keyword relevance and reader value earns trust with search engines.
Technical SEO creates the foundation for search engine success. By following this comprehensive checklist, you can identify and fix issues that impact performance. Optimizing technical factors like site crawlability, mobile-friendliness, site speed and security demonstrates your commitment to users and search engines.
Combining a well-executed technical SEO strategy with authoritative content and smart link building is the best way to maximize your search presence and ranking. The time invested in technical SEO audits delivers exponential dividends by amplifying all other optimization efforts.
If you need help with your technical SEO or want experts to audit your site, check out our SEO services at Optimized24. Our experienced team can identify and address technical issues holding your site back. Get in touch for a free consultation today!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most important technical SEO factors?
Some of the most crucial technical elements for SEO include site speed, mobile optimization, security, site architecture, keywords, fixing errors, and accessibility to search crawlers.
How can I check my own technical SEO?
You can conduct DIY technical audits using online SEO tools like Google Search Console, Google Lighthouse, and Moz Bar that provide insights into site errors, keywords, page speed, mobile usability and more.
What are structured data markups?
Structured data markup is code you can add to your site to help search engines understand your content and display it better in search results. Implementing schema markups for your business, products, and content can improve click-through rates.
How often should I perform a technical SEO audit?
Ideally, you should audit technical SEO factors 1-2 times per year and also check core elements like site speed and broken links on a monthly basis. Monitoring technical site health regularly prevents issues from piling up.
How long does it take to fix technical SEO issues?
It depends on the severity and number of issues. Small problems like fixing broken links can be done quickly. Bigger issues like migrating a site or improving page speed may take several weeks or months to fully address. Tackle high priority errors first.
Use structured data markup
Implement schema markup for FAQs, products, articles, local businesses, and more. This enhances the rich snippets displayed in SERPs. Some important schema types include:
Optimize page speed
Page speed impacts user experience, bounce rate, and search rankings. To optimize speed:
- Compress images and enable caching.
- Minimize HTTP requests by combining files.
- Optimize code to reduce server response time.
- Upgrade to faster web hosting.
- Reduce redirects.
- Enable compression with gzip/brotli.
Improve site architecture
- Eliminate thin affiliate pages or low-value pages.
- Consolidate similar content using canonical tags.
- Separate categories, tags, archives into directories.
- Keep important pages like homepage within top-level folders.
- Add ARIA roles for enhanced semantics.
- Provide text alternatives for images, audio, video.
- Design forms for usability including labels and keyboard access.
- Allow users to zoom and scale text size.
- Support screen readers and keyboard navigation.
Update site migration
When migrating or redesigning your website:
- Set up 301 redirects from old to new URLs.
- Use canonical tags to consolidate pages.
- Update XML sitemap, robots.txt and submit to search engines.
- Modify internal links to use new URLs.
- Import users, traffic history, and analytics to preserve data.
Monitor with analytics
Use web analytics platforms to:
- Track keyword rankings and traffic.
- Discover bad links driving 404 errors.
- Identify site issues reducing conversions.
- Monitor site speed metrics.
- Analyze visitor behavior.
- Measure SEO impact and ROI.
- Compress image file sizes without losing quality.
- Use appropriate image formats – JPEG for photos, PNG for logos/illustrations.
- Include height and width dimensions in img tag.
- Optimize image file names with target keywords.
- Provide attribution for any third-party or stock images.
Enhance site security
- Install an SSL certificate and enable HTTPS across all pages.
- Automatically install security patches and updates.
- Use reCAPTCHA for forms to prevent bots.
- Consider a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to filter malicious requests.
- Regularly check for malware and conduct security testing.
Improve page performance
- Remove unnecessary plugins/widgets that bloat code.
- Lazy load non-critical resources like images and videos.
- Use browser caching with expiration times for static assets.
- Eliminate render-blocking resources.
Update XML sitemap
- Include new pages like blog posts when published.
- List sitemap URL in your robots.txt file.
- Ping search engines when sitemap is updated.
- Include videos and images in video and image sitemaps.
- Set appropriate update frequency for each page.
Enhance crawl budget
- Block less important pages using robots.txt.
- Avoid crawling interrupts like popups and overlays.
- Eliminate duplicate content across domains and pages.
- Consolidate parameters using canonical tags.
- Fix 4xx and 5xx errors that waste crawl budget.
Conduct regular audits
- Use a technical SEO checklist to audit your site’s health.
- Check site speed, mobile usability, indexing issues monthly.
- Do a full technical review checking code, structure, keywords every 6 months.
- Review analytics reports for sudden drops or changes.
- Set calendar reminders to prompt audits.
Monitor site indexation
- Check indexing status in Google Search Console.
- Submit new URLs for recrawling via GSC.
- If important pages aren’t indexed, update sitemap and inspect for issues.
- Compare indexed pages versus total pages.
- Check index coverage across site sections.
Analyze click-through rates
- Review click-through rates for rankings in Google Analytics.
- Optimize low-performing title tags and meta descriptions.
- Ensure pages load quickly. Slow load times hurt CTR.
- Improve low-quality thin content to boost relevance.
- Update design for modern look and optimized call-to-actions.
Eliminate site errors
- Fix HTTP 404 and 500 errors. Set up redirects for 404s.
- Resolve DNS errors preventing access to your site.
- Eliminate crawl errors in GSC like not found or blocked pages.
- Disable or update broken plugins causing site issues.
- Contact support to resolve server errors.
Choose the right tools
- Google Search Console and Analytics for insights.
- Screaming Frog, DeepCrawl, or Sitebulb for in-depth audits.
- PageSpeed Insights and WebPageTest for performance metrics.
- SEMrush, Ahrefs, Moz for rankings, backlinks and keywords.
- Pingdom and GTmetrix for uptime monitoring.
Local SEO optimizations
For local search visibility:
- Create and verify Google My Business listing with accurate info.
- Add business schema markup like LocalBusiness for address, hours etc.
- Ensure NAP consistency across directories like Yelp, Apple Maps.
- Include locally optimized pages like city-specific landing pages.
- Get customer reviews on GMB, Facebook, and industry sites.
Voice search optimization
Optimize site for voice queries:
- Use natural conversation language and keywords.
- Craft descriptive, long-tail meta descriptions.
- Include FAQ schema markup for voice searches.
- Ensure fast page speeds as voice users are impatient.
- Test site with voice search tools like Alexa or Google Assistant.
For better worldwide visibility:
- Provide translated content for target countries.
- Localize URLs with country code top-level domains.
- Adapt content for local culture and language quirks.
- Set hreflang tags to serve the right content to users.
- Follow local SEO best practices in each target market.
Site uptime monitoring
- Use tools like UptimeRobot or Pingdom to monitor uptime.
- Set up monitoring from multiple geographic locations.
- Receive notifications if site goes down or is slow.
- Review historical uptime reports.
- Ensure at least 99% uptime. Anything below hurts SEO.