Technical SEO Definitive Guide

This is a step-by-step guide to technical SEO to help you establish a strong SEO foundation of your site in 2021.

Technical SEO Guide

Technical SEO refers to optimizing your website to help Google (and other search engines) find and index your website without any problems.

Let’s start with the steps you can follow to ensure your website’s technical side is perfectly optimized for organic search.

  1. Crawlability
  2. Indexing
  3. HTTPS
  4. URLs Analysis
  5. Site Structure
  6. Sitemap
  7. Internal Links
  8. Crawl Budget
  9. Duplicate Content
  10. Canonical Tags
  11. Redirects
  12. Site Speed
  13. Mobile Friendliness
  14. Structured Data
  15. Hreflang

Few tools that you will need for this audit…

Let’s get started…

Crawlability

Search engines use bots to crawl the web and find web pages to index.

To check your site crawlability, check your robots.txt file. It can be found at yoursite.com/robots.txt (replace yoursite.com with your website address).

Robots txt file

Robots.txt file is used to control how a search engine can crawl and access your site.

Indexing

Go to Google, and type site:yoursite.com and see how many pages show up in Google’s index.

Site Operator to Check Indexed Pages in Google

You can also check the number of indexed pages in the Search Console.

Indexed Pages in Search Console

If the indexed pages in Google are less than what you have on your website, it means there are indexing issues with your website.

Sitemap

XML sitemap helps search engines better crawl and index your website.

To check if your site has a sitemap, visit yoursite.com/sitemap.xml or yoursitemap.com/index_sitemap.xml.

RankMath Sitemap

If you don’t have a sitemap, you can use any free plugin (like RankMath or Yoast) for WordPress or use a free tool like Octopus.do to generate the sitemap.

HTTPS

Google prefers HTTPS over HTTP as HTTPS uses a more secure way to transport the data.

HTTPS for SEO

This means that any information transferred between your website and server (like user data, passwords, payment details, etc.) is encrypted and secure. Also, HTTPS is an official Google ranking factor.

If your site is not using HTTPS, you can contact your hosting provider and ask them to install an SSL — usually, it’s free.

URLs Analysis

Search engines use URLs to crawl, index, and understand a web page. So keep URLs short, descriptive, in lowercase characters, and follow a consistent format.

You can visit Coverage in the Search Console to check if there are any URL indexation-related errors.

Coverage report in Search Console

If you’re using subfolders in your URLs, then use accurate keywords as the category (or tags) name. This will help Google understand the pages under a specific category.

Site Structure

A large portion of a site’s SEO success depends on its structure, as the site structure impacts how search engines crawl and index a website.

Generally, a flat site structure works well.

Simple Site Structure for SEO

A flat site structure makes it easy to keep all the site’s pages a maximum of four clicks away.

You can use any site Audit tool like Sitebulb or Ahrefs to visualize your current site structure and then make the changes.

Site Structure Visualization

Note that the more complex your site structure is (the greater number of URLs), the harder it will be to optimize your site.

An internal link is a link to another page on the same website.

Internal Links

To maximize your internal linking results, use keyword-rich anchor texts, link high up in your pages, link to important pages, and use dofollow links only.

Internal Links Best Practices

You can use SEO tools like Sitebulb and Screaming Frog to find new internal linking opportunities and fix issues (if any).

Crawl Budget

Crawl Budget refers to the number of pages Googlebot crawls and indexes on your site.

If you waste your crawl budget, search engine bots will not crawl all your site pages, which means you’ll have fewer chances of ranking in search.

High Crawl Budget in SEO

You can optimize your site speed, use proper internal links, implement a flat site structure and avoid duplicate content or orphan pages to maximize your crawl budget.

Note that sites with less than 50,000 URLs don’t have to worry about the crawl budget.

Duplicate Content

Content that appears in two or more URLs on the web is duplicate content. It can be present on a single website or multiple domains.

Duplicate Content in SEO

While Google specifically doesn’t have any duplicate content penalty, still having duplicate content can harm your site’s organic presence.

To find duplicate content in your site, use tools like Siteliner or Copyscape.

Siteliner to Check Duplicate Content

If you find any duplicate content on your site, you can either use a noindex tag (to tell Google not to index that duplicate URL) or a canonical tag (to tell Google the original source of the content).

If you find other sites using your content, you can contact them and request to remove the content or submit a DMCA takedown request with Google.

Canonical Tags

By default, every page in your site should have a canonical tag (rel= “canonical”) in the of <head> your site pages.

A canonical tag is defined as:

 <link rel= "canonical" href="https://yoursite.com/page/" >
Canonical Tag

Google uses the canonical tag to find and index the original source of a page and decide which page to rank higher for the relevant queries.

Redirects

In SEO, redirects are used to send a user from one page (source) to another page (target).

Redirects in SEO

While redirects are not bad for SEO, using too many redirects, or setting up redirect chains can cause severe damage to a site’s SEO.

Redirect Chain in SEO

To find redirect issues in your site, you can run a technical site audit in Screaming Frog or Sitebulb. Then look for pages with redirect issues (like broken redirects, redirects chains, or redirects loops).

Finally, remove unnecessary redirects and reevaluate old redirects and remove the ones you do not need anymore.

Site Speed

With the latest Google’s Page Experience update, page speed (Core Web Vitals) is an important ranking factor.

Core Web Vitals are the speed metrics by Google that measures LCP (Largest Contentful Paint), CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift), and FID (First Input Delay).

Google Page Speed Insights Tool

You can check your site’s speed data in the “Core Web Vitals” section in Google Search Console.

Core Web Vitals in Search Console

If you have most of the URLs in the “poor” or “need improvement” category, you can follow these tips to get your pages in the green zone:

  • Use a fast hosting service
  • Site should be fully responsive
  • Use GZIP compression
  • Compress your images and media files
  • Minify your site’s code
  • Set up lazy loading
  • Use browser and server-side caching
  • Eliminate unnecessary 3rd party scripts
  • Use CDN (content delivery network)

If you’re on WordPress, you can also use plugins like WP Rocket, as they can automatically apply most of the performance best practices.

Mobile Friendliness

Google now uses a mobile-first index, which means the mobile version of a site is used for crawling and indexing.

Mobile Friendliness

You can check for any mobile-friendliness-related issues in the Google Search Console’s Mobile Usability report.

Search Console Mobile Usability Report

Most of the time, if your site is fully responsive, you will find no errors in the Mobile Usability report.

Structured Data

Google uses structured data to better understand how to display your website’s information in search and to serve rich results.

Recipe Structured Data

Some of the Schema types you can use are:

  • Article / NewsArticle / BlogPosting
  • Organization
  • Person
  • Event
  • Job Posting
  • Product
  • Recipe
  • Review
  • Local Business

You can include Schema code in your site in JSON-LD (recommended by Google), Microdata, and RDFa format.

To implement Schema, use either the Google Data highlighter, or tools like Merkle and Schema Builder extension.

While Schema is not an official Google ranking signal, it can affect your website CTR in Google, which means you can get more organic traffic with a proper Schema setup.

Hreflang

Hreflang tag (rel=“alternate hreflang=“x”) allows you to specify language and regional variations of a page to search engines.

Hreflang Tags

It is useful when you have more than one version of a page for different languages or regions.

Hreflang tag is represented as:

<link rel=“alternate” hreflang=“es-ES" href=“https://yoursite.com/de/page/“ >

To generate Hreflang tag for your site, you can simply use free tools by Sistrix or Alyeda Solis.

Hreflang Tag Generator Tool

Putting It All Together

Here’s a quick recap of what we have discussed above to optimize your website for technical SEO…

  • Crawlability — Ability of search engine’s to access and crawl web page content.
  • Indexing — Process of adding web pages in search engines index/database.
  • HTTPS — Encrypt the data transfer between a website and web browser.
  • URLs Analysis — Address of a web page on the Internet.
  • Site Structure — Refers to how the pages of a site are linked to one another.
  • Sitemap — A list of all the URLs of a website.
  • Internal Links — Link from a page to another page on the same domain.
  • Crawl Budget — Average number of URLs a search engine will crawl on your site.
  • Duplicate Content — Same content on different domains or multiple pages of a single domain.
  • Canonical Tags — To tell search engines the original version of a page.
  • Redirects — Method of forwarding one URL to a different URL.
  • Site Speed — Amount of time taken by a web page to load.
  • Mobile Friendliness — Website optimized for mobile devices.
  • Structured Data — A form of microdata to help search engines better understand web pages.
  • Hreflang — HTML tag to specify multiple languages.

Final Words

Publishing amazing content or building links won’t matter if Google can’t understand your pages in the first place.

Remember that: Google (and other search engines) are just computer algorithms only, and algorithms are based on maths — may be very, very complicated maths — but in the end, it’s just maths.

So follow this guide to make sure your site has a solid technical SEO foundation.

Also, just like other SEO processes, technical SEO is not a set-and-forget strategy; it’s a constant process that you will need to repeat over time as your site evolves.

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Thanks for reading. I hope you find this useful.

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