Technical SEO Checklist for Easy Fixes and Better Ranking
By: Dileep Thekkethil
August 30, 2022
Table of Contents
Time and again, the word SEO has been misunderstood by businesses as a one-time investment that churns out money on its own. However, this is a blind-folded belief that later on wreaks havoc with these organizations when the promised results fail to come by.
A majority of the businesses that approach SEO agencies come with an already disease-ridden website. The disease here being the technical SEO issues.
Consider your website as an ax with the power to cut a hundred trees in a day. Over time, the ax might go blunt, and you can’t expect more. Changing the handle is not going to make any difference. What the ax needs is a thorough sharpening.
Most of the time, website owners fail to understand this. The website may look peppy and illustrious. However, there is little good from a site – be it an awarding-winning one, if it fails to address the target audience.
Businesses that invest in on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and content marketing as part of their digital marketing campaign must shift their focus to first fixing the technical SEO issues. The result of all other campaigns that you run is greatly dependent on your website’s technical soundness.
In this blog, you will be introduced to a host of technical SEO issues that websites seldom address before kick-starting the SEO campaign. This initial negligence results in hampering their SEO strategy and ultimately failing to reach the target market.
What is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO refers to a process of optimizing the websites based on the technical best-practices that can improve the organic rankings of a website on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).
There are many technical SEO factors to consider while optimizing a website. This includes, optimize the speed, redirects, 4xx error pages, responsiveness, indexability, and crawlability, to name a few.
More or less, technical SEO can be considered as a way to ensure websites are easily fetched and rendered by search engine bots without errors that cause a decline in the organic position of the keywords that the website is currently ranking. Failure to address technical SEO issues can take a severe toll on the site – including search engines deindexing the pages.
The search engines use algorithms for ranking web pages on the SERP. Google’s Algorithm has over 200 ranking factors, and technical SEO, without doubt, is one of the factors.
According to the latest reports from Google, it comes up with 3,200+ algorithm tweaks every year, and these tweaks make fluctuations in the ranking of websites.
Any website that fails to address the Technical SEO issues, despite their best efforts to build quality backlink and content, will fall behind the competitors in organic rankings.
When a website decides to take into consideration Technical SEO fixes, On-page Optimization, and Off-Page Link Building hand in hand, the chances of making it to the top of Google SERP are high.
8-Step Technical SEO Checklist
There is a popular notion among SEOs that Technical SEO is a daunting task and requires developers to fix it. However, there are basic technical SEO fixes that any SEO can do within a few hours. This guide is going to give you an overview of such technical SEO fixes so that you don’t have to wait for the expert to assist you with the implementation.
Step 1: Technical SEO Audit
In SEO, everything starts with an Audit, be it on-page SEO, off-page SEO, or, in this case, Technical SEO. A technical SEO audit report gives you insights into the errors and mistakes that are pulling your website back from ranking on the first page of Google SERP.
When the web crawlers find technical issues within site, their crawl budget allocated to the site might get reduced, resulting in fewer pages being crawled and indexed. In addition to this, the sites with major technical flaws may be pushed to the inside pages of Google SERP, resulting in lower CTR.
These tools crawl the pages within your website, checking for over 100 different technical SEO factors. Once you have completed the audit, you can download the report and get ready with the fixes for each.
Step 2: Ensure the Site is Mobile Friendly
Google has announced that it’s crawlers are now doing Mobile-First Indexing, which essentially means that Google will consider the mobile version of your website while ranking on the SERP.
Search made through mobile devices has outranked the desktop. Google wants to ensure that the sites eligible to rank on the first page of the search results have made the transition.
Websites that are yet to make the shift to responsive design will automatically be forced out to the inner pages of Google. The shift to mobile-friendly designs started in 2015 when Google announced the Mobilegeddon update.
In the recent announcement, Google has made it clear that moving forward, their crawlers will not fetch and render mobile and desktop versions separately. Instead, the search engine bot will only consider the mobile version for the ranking and indexing purposes.
This makes mobile-friendliness the most critical Technical SEO fix in your list. Since it’s the most important ranking factor, fixing any mobile-friendliness issues within your site must be given priority.
There is a gamut of free tools available to check if your website is mobile-friendly. Since most of the websites are trying to rank on Google, it’s recommended to use Google Mobile-Friendly Test to check if your site looks all good in the eyes of the search engine giant.
If you find errors within the Google Mobile-Friendly Test, make sure that you fix them without fail and then move ahead with other optimization strategies. All your SEO strategies will fail if the page is not mobile optimized.
Step 3: Optimize the Speed of Your Website
One of the primary reasons websites fail to rank on Google SERP is the lack of speed. Load speed optimization is one of the least experimented by the SEOs. Most of the time, optimizing the page speed of a website requires the help of a developer or needs high SEO expertise.
According to Google, on average, the load speed of websites out there on the web is 22 seconds. This is not in conjunction with the Google recommended page load speed. Google says any site with more than 3 seconds load speed has two times more bounce rate.
In addition to this, the users have a very little attention span, and they expect the page to open as soon as they click on Google.
There are a few handy tools to check if your page is loading faster. Google has recently launched the Google LightHouse tool as part of the Chrome browser to check the page speed based on the users’ real user experience. This is currently the most reliable site speed test you get as it represents the data from the actual users.
Step 4: Create a Sitemap
Sitemaps make the crawling and indexing of important pages easier for search engine bots. An sitemap is an XML file that is part of a website that enlists all the vital pages that have been made available to search engine bots to crawl and index.
Having a properly set up XML sitemap will ensure that the crawl budget of your website is utilized most judiciously by the search engines. Without a sitemap, Google and other search engines may spend time trying to crawl and index pages that don’t matter for you. This will eat up the crawl budget.
In addition to this, pages with errors can also pop up in the search if the XML sitemap is not optimized correctly. The most common mistake that SEOs make is to add no-index, nofollow pages in the sitemap. This adds no value as Google will try crawling it and then identify it as noindex. Inadvertently, the other important pages of your site lose the chance of getting crawled.
One of the most important functionalities of an XML site map is to prioritize the pages based on their importance.
Once you are ready with an optimized XML sitemap, make sure to add it to the search console.
Once you submit the sitemap of the search console, it will render the file and show if the formatting follows the accepted standards. A sitemap with errors will do more harm than good for website owners.
Step 5: Optimizing the Image Alt Text
Even though Google can identify images based on the similarity (Google Lens is the best example for this), the search engine cannot identify the context of an image within the content. That’s why the Alt text of the images came way too crucial in SEO.
Alt Text is a kind of metadata that Google and other search engines use to understand and decipher the context of an image within the content.
This is also a key on-page optimization factor. However, most of the website owners fail to update the alt text for the images despite it being one of the natural ways to add the keywords.
An ideal alt text must have descriptive information about the image that it represents. Another spammy SEO practice that is prevalent is to stuff keywords without context. This again can ruin the SEO campaign as it can trigger spam.
Step 6: Fix Duplicate Content Issues
Duplicate content is one major reason why websites fail to rank for the focus keywords. Any time a site has similar content published in different URLs, search engine bots fail to understand which one to rank, leading to both pages not ranking.
The best way to check duplicate content on your website is through tools such as SEMRush and Ahrefs. Both these SEO tools provide a detailed insight into the duplicate pages with the site. As a website owner, identify pages that have to be retained and the ones that have to be removed.
Yes. Deleting the pages from your website is the best solution for duplicate content. However, if you think that both the pages have garnered search traffic, it’s ideal for merging the content, and then 301 redirect the other.
If you are a WordPress user, the best way to ensure you fix the duplicate content issue is by assigning the Canonical tag to the duplicate pages using the Yoast plugin. This way, Google can understand that only one page must be considered while ranking.
Another boon of this tool is that you can do the canonicalization of cross domain articles, ensuring that you give Google ample inputs regarding the original content and its creator.
Google can penalize websites that engage in publishing content from other websites. Using canonical is the best way to avoid such mishaps on your website.
Step 7: SSL Certificate
Google has been careful when ranking websites on the SERP. Over time, Google has been very conscious of enlisting only sites that don’t harm their users. They started taking privacy seriously, and at the beginning of 2014, Google has confirmed that the SSL certification is a ranking factor.
If you do a small test with any keyword of your choice, you will see websites with HTTPS certification in the first positions. Though easy to implement, some website owners have failed to implement SSL resulting in colossal loss of organic traction.
In addition to this, Google Chrome Browser, starting in early 2018, has started to display a “not secure” tag while opening pages that do not have SSL certification. Adding to this, in 2020, Google Chrome has started displaying Mixed Content warning to users. This warning shows up when the pages have both HTTPS and HTTP content. The users can either opt-out from visiting the page or load it at the users on risk.
All this points to how important the SSL certificate is for your website.
Step 8: Check for Errors Within Search Console
The search console is the best place to find a lot of technical errors that otherwise you may miss out on. The new Google Search Console is a dynamic tool that gives you reports based on your website’s day-to-day performance.
The sections Index Coverage Issues and enhancements give you many inputs regarding the technical SEO errors lurking with the site. While the Index Coverage issues give you an overview of all pages with crawl errors and indexability issues, the enhancement report gives you the picture of how your website is performing in terms of site speed and the various Schemas used to display rich snippets.
Since Schema Markup is subjected to changes over time, the enhancement report comes handy as you can verify that the schema implementation is as per the Google recommended guidelines.
Fixing the errors that appear on the Search Console must be a priority as these could mark a difference in the way Google displays your website on the Search Engine Results Page.
These are some of the key steps that you must follow to ensure that your website is free from technical SEO errors that will hamper the organic growth.
By identifying and fixing the common errors that are displayed while imparting these steps will make sure that your website is technically fit for the other SEO activities – On-page and Off-page to get maximum results.
If you find it hard to implement the fixes mentioned here for various reasons, we can help you out. All you have to do is to visit our Fully Managed SEO service page. We can ensure your website is handled by the best Technical SEO hand currently available in the industry.