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What is Technical SEO and How to Perform a Technical SEO Audit? [with Free Checklist]

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a long-drawn-out process and one of the most significant phases in the entire process is getting your Technical SEO right.

Not doing so can prove to be costly because without technical SEO the chances of your SEO efforts paying off are very less.

The good news is that technical SEO is something you don’t have to worry about often. Conduct a technical SEO audit once, fix all the issues and you won’t have to look at it again.

Therefore, making sure you understand exactly what Technical SEO is and the complexities of how it works, is essential as well.

On the other hand, however, it is advisable to conduct a full SEO audit periodically, it could be either once a month or once every three months. 

In this article, you will discover what is technical SEO, the best practices of technical SEO, and how to implement them on your website. So, let us get started with learning exactly What is Technical SEO. 

What is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO refers to the system of structuring the website’s architecture to make the process of navigating, crawling, and indexing the website easier for the search engine bots 

It is labeled ‘technical’ as it has little to do with the website’s actual content or with the marketing of the website. Technical SEO is primarily targeted at improving a website’s infrastructure.

In order to truly understand the inner workings of technical SEO, we first need to understand the jargon or basic terminologies of technical SEO.

We will begin at the basics by recalling what is SEO?

At its core, the process of making your website search engine friendly is known as SEO.

In order words, optimizing it for search engines to understand the content of your website and display it correctly on the search engine results page is called SEO. This process includes: 

  • Ensuring that the search engines can quickly access and index the website
  • Creating high-quality content for search engines that matches the search intent of the target audience
  • Sending the right signs to search engines for them to understand the architecture of the website 
  • Helping the search engine spiders to understand the right context of the content created and published on your website
  • Giving reasons for search engine algorithms to trust your website that will, in turn, enable the bots to improve your search engine ranking.

On successfully delivering on all the above points, your website will automatically become SEO friendly and a rightful nominee to appear on multiple SERPS for various searches related to your business. 

Learn more about What is SEO and why is it important for your business.

How do you start SEO?

Before addressing a search query, the first step taken by search engines is the process of crawling and indexing. In the process, the search engines scan the Internet for publicly accessible web sites and index them 

You can find, interpret, and classify the crawled and indexed pages into their internal database. The search engine algorithms scan these pages and provide users with correct answers to their search queries

The 3 pillars of SEO are On-page SEO, Off-Page SEO, and Technical SEO.

While On-page SEO is all about the content on the website and how to make it more useful for customers, off-page SEO (also known as link building) is the process of obtaining referrals (links) from other websites that adds a trust factor for search engines to grant a higher ranking on the SERPs.

There are no clear limitations between technical SEO, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO. All three pillars must work together for a completely optimized website.

Now that it’s clear what is technical SEO, let us see How to perform a technical SEO audit?

How to perform a technical seo audit?

Define Preferred Domain

Many people have concerns about whether to use www in front of their domain or non-www version. The option of one format over the other does not have an SEO advantage, it is a matter of your own taste.

The main thing is to inform your search engines about your domain name and stick to your decision.

In the event of a change of opinion, a 301 redirection option can be used to migrate from one format to the other. However, it is not advisable as the entire process is quite risky.

Create and submit a sitemap

Creating and submitting XML SiteMap is one of the most critical components of strategic SEO. Sitemaps are used to show the structure of the site to Google and the other search engines.

As the search engines can crawl your site anyway, they are not really needed.

However, they help to establish the hierarchy of your website to search engines, which in turn improves the chances of higher rankings. If you are using WordPress, you can automatically create the website’s XML sitemap by using the Yoast SEO plugin.

The next move is to submit it to the Google Search Console. 

  • Go to the Google Search Console, then press the Sitemap button.
  • In the “Add New Sitemap” field, add the name of the sitemap file.
  • Select ‘Submit’

Google will soon crawl into the sitemap and you will be able to view all the pages and articles that have been submitted, crawled, and indexed by the search engines. 

Check and Optimize your Robots.txt

Once the sitemap is submitted, the next step is to check and optimize the Robot.txt file. The Robots.txt is a text file that is part of your website’s root directory.

This file provides search engines with clear instructions about which pages of the websites are to be crawled and indexed by the bots and which are not supposed to be crawled. 

Creating a robot.txt file is easy and uses a very straightforward format. You might not even have to make any changes to it in the majority of instances.

The only important thing here is to verify and ensure that none of the important webpages such as your main landing page or product and service pages are incorrectly blocked which will prohibit search engine crawlers from indexing those pages.

Identify Crawl Errors

Nothing technical will be without errors, and technical SEO is no exception. Therefore, finding crawling errors is an essential step in the whole process of technical SEO.

If these crawling and indexing errors are not identified, Google won’t index the site properly and will impact your rankings negatively. 

Don’t worry, there are multiple tools available for you to identify and fix crawl errors. And Google Search Console is one of the most prominent tools amongst them.

You can use the Index Coverage report and URL inspection tool to find all the errors exactly and the valid pages of your website.

Optimize Your Menu and Site Structure

For several reasons, the menu and structure of a website is a big SEO element. Website visitors are likely to engage with a business if they can quickly and easily find what they want with least number of clicks.

A user-friendly website also helps search engines with easy crawling, interpreting, and indexing of the website.

One significant error many site owners make is that they forget about the menu and site’s infrastructure while optimizing the website for a better conversion rate. As a result, they actually end up ruining their SEO. 

Keep in mind that while reviewing a website, Google takes into account the menu and general layout of the website. Your website’ menu and architecture should be created and arranged with the end user in mind. 

Check out this article by backlinko to learn more about the best practices of website architecture.

Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly 

With the introduction of the Mobile-First Index by Google, it is no longer optional to have a mobile-friendly website. Most likely, most of your users are on mobile, and if you don’t have a fast, mobile-friendly website, your rankings will suffer. 

The responsiveness of your mobile-friendly website is a part of technical SEO because once you configure it correctly, you don’t need to deal with it again.

Additionally, the set up of a mobile-friendly website required a certain amount of technical know-how and expertise

To begin with, you need to check your website’s mobile-friendliness with this Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool.

In case your website is not optimized for mobile use, brace yourself because you have a lot of work to do then. Some of the points to remember while working on your mobile SEO include :

  • The content of your mobile website should be the same as that of your desktop site. Google will aim to rate mobile websites based on their mobile content. So, it is important that any content you have on your desktop should also be on the mobile site.
  • Your mobile site should launch in less than 3 seconds
  • Having a lower mobile conversion rate (compared to the desktop) is common, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want to optimize your mobile website for SEO as much as possible.
  • You must avoid adding any kind of popups on mobile
  • The need to have a fast mobile website is not replaced by an AMP website. You do need to have a nice and fast mobile website, even though you have Accelerated Mobile Sites enabled on your website.
  • You actually don’t have to think about the first mobile index if you have a responsive website. 

Fix Broken Links

The best thing is that you don’t need to think a lot about broken links on your website since they don’t ever affect your website rankings.

Broken links, though, have an impact on the user experience which can influence SEO. Thus, you must locate and repair broken links on your website.

Next, the missing links on your website that are not indexed by Google need to be identified. The Google Search Console Index Report will provide you with the data quickly.

The user experience and your PageRank are also impacted by these broken link pages. So you have to either delete them or replace those pages as soon as you find them.

You can use tools such as Ahrefs or Broken Link Check to identify the broken internal and external links. 

Secure Your Site With HTTPS

Did you know that 68 percent of internet users think new laws are not capable of protecting their rights? Hardly any mystery that Google is strictly engaged in ensuring that the privacy of its users is secured as security has always been a high priority for them.

Therefore, in 2014 the tech giant introduced HTTPS as a ranking signal in order to introduce an innovative secure connection for customers.

Installing an SSL on your server makes it possible for your users to access your website using HTTPS instead of HTTP.

This ensures that any data transferred from your site to the server including usernames, passwords, personal data, etc. is encrypted.

Once upon a time, having an SSL security certificate was only essential for eCommerce websites, However, with the rise of Internet frauds, SSL needs to be installed on any website.

Improve Your Site Loading Speed

The fast-paced world waits for no one and in that, if your website does not load within a few seconds, you will have to face the consequences of a high exit rate. 

Keeping that in mind, Google now considers the Core Web Vitals as a measurement to rate the user experience on a webpage and rank the website accordingly on the SERP.

The Core Web Vitalities consists of three specific page speed and user interaction measurements, which are: largest contentful paint, first input delay, and cumulative layout shift. 

Basically, the Core Web Vitals are Google’s way of sizing the overall UX of your page. You can easily find the Core Web Vitals data in your Google Search Console account under the enhancement section.

Check out my simple guide on how to improve your website speed

Add Relevant Structured Data Markup

In the last few years, structured data has become particularly relevant because it is extensively used in search results by Google. Structured data is, in basic terms, code that you can apply to your web pages that is accessible to search engine crawlers and lets them understand the meaning of your content.

It’s a way for search engines to interpret the data in a language they can understand.

While structured data is more about the content of your website, you still need to apply a code to the website to get it right and that’s why it is part of technical SEO.

Whether by featured snippets, information graph entries, etc., it will help you boost the appearance of your listings in the SERPS and maximise your CTR.

To explain your content, there are many ways that you can use structured data. Posts, tips, activities, work listings, local businesses, and more are the most common. The FAQ schema generator on my website is a good example for the same.

Canonical URLs on Your Website

Canonical links are a simple way to tell Google what page version is to be considered while indexing your website.

The concept of canonical links is pretty straightforward, it is simply a way to let Google know that the particular content with the canonical link is original.

However, other identical content on the website is not to be considered as plagiarised.   

According to the best practices of technical SEO, there should be a canonical URL for every page of your website.

You need to add the tag <link rel=”canonical” href=”yourpageurl”>, in the <head> of all your posts and pages.

As with other technical SEO components, you don’t have to do anything else once you set your website correctly to generate the right canonical URL.

You must use the canonical tag especially if you have two or more pages with identical content. This helps in preventing duplicate content conflicts when publishing 3rd party content from other websites to your website.

Hreflang tag for multilingual website

The hreflang tag shows Google which language you are using on a particular page. This technical SEO tool helps the search engines to support the user by serving your content in their search preferred language. It is especially useful if you are providing your services in different countries. 

This will help users with the right content ( i.e. to show content in French to people from France) and will also help you customize your SEO by avoiding duplicate content and indexing problems.

Register with Google Search Console

Technical SEO is incomplete with webmasters tools such as Google Search Console.

The feature-rich tools can help you with various tasks related to technical SEO such as verifying the robots.txt file, submitting XML sitemaps to Google, and identifying and resolving crawl errors. 

If you want to learn more about how GSC can help you boost your SEO efforts, check out Google Search Console Tutorial

Technical SEO Checklist

Congratulations if you have reached this point in blog and have a better understanding of what technical SEO is and how is very different than On-Page and Off-Page SEO.

If you believe you are ready to start the technical SEO for your website, here is an all-inclusive Technical SEO Checklist to perform your technical SEO audit.

  1. Define Preferred Domain
  2. Create And Submit A Sitemap
  3. Check And Optimize Your Robots.txt
  4. Identify and fix Crawl Errors
  5. Optimize Your Menu And Site Structure
  6. Make Your Site Mobile-friendly
  7. Fix Broken Links
  8. Secure Your Site With HTTPS
  9. Improve Your Site Loading Speed
  10. Add Structured Data Markup on the homepage
  11. Add FAQ Schema to relevant pages or blogs.
  12. Add Canonical URLs On Your Website
  13. Hreflang Tag For Multilingual Website
  14. Register with Google Search Console
  15. Register with Ahrefs Webmaster Tools
  16. Register your website with Bing Webmaster

To monitor your website’s optimization level, you can carry out a general SEO audit, which contains many more checks beyond the technical SEO’s. 

Check out my complete SEO Checklist with 48 actionable inputs and more.

Conclusion

Technical SEO includes several checks and settings that you need to streamline so that search engines can crawl and index your website easily.

The beauty of technical SEO is that unlike on-page and off-page SEO, it is not something that demands constant attention. You can do it once correctly and probably won’t have to look at it again for a while, except periodical SEO audits. 

The word technical means that you need some technique to perform the task (such as optimizing page speed, adding structured data, etc.), without which your website will never reach its full potential.

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