Any online marketer worth their salt knows how important a sound search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is for their website. However, there are a variety of technical SEO factors that lead to success, and you have to take all of them into account to garner the best possible search results. The advantage of SEO is that when done well it can have a significant impact on your ranking. But when neglected, unaddressed technical issues can adversely affect your websites search engine performance
In our experience, sometimes even using the word “technical” in conjunction with the Internet can be intimidating, especially if the concept is new to you. But when it comes to technical SEO, have no fear: today we’re going to give you a quick checklist in the simplest terms possible. If you’re still struggling with the idea when you’re finished reading this, that’s not an issue, either. We’ve helped many of our clients improve their results.
That’s enough prelude. Let’s move along to our 2020 Technical SEO checklist.
1. Make Sure Your Site Is Secure
Making your site secure may seem obvious, but it is a technical aspect that can easily be overlooked. First, you need to familiarize yourself with a couple of important acronyms: SSL and HTTPS. SSL stands for “secure sockets layer,” which encrypts links between your web server and browser. Today SSL is technically TLS (which stands for “transport layer security”) to account for a change in ownership of the protocol, but SSL is still a widely used term. The SSL is what allows websites to shift from HTTP to HTTPS, which is far more secure.
HTTPS stands for “hypertext transfer protocol secure,” which is the connection that delivers data using the SSL certificate. If you’ve ever seen the “Not Secure” message to the left of the url when visiting a website, that indicates the browser doesn’t trust the site. What you want to see is the green padlock since that signifies that the site is trustworthy. Taking stock of security is important, because when customers are logging in with credentials or making purchases with credit cards they want to see the signals that indicate their data is protected.
2. Improve And Maintain Page Load Speeds
Ever seen a line at the bank, or at a restaurant, and decided, “Well, I’ll just come back later.” It’s no different with your website. When people have to wait for your site—or even a page—to load, they’re going to head elsewhere in a matter of seconds. Beyond the fact that you’re losing the eyes you’ve worked hard to reach, Google punishes slower sites in the rankings, and every time a user hits the “back” button you’ll be penalized, too.
One of the biggest culprits for slowing down sites is large images or rich files, so make sure you’ve compressed those images and optimized those files. And per impactbnd.com, “browser caching, utilizing CDNs, removing unused scripts and files, and decreasing HTTP requests also contribute to rectifying this common issue,” and they suggest using a resource like www.webpagetest.com to test your site after you’ve cleaned things up.
3. Make Your Site As Easy to Search As Possible
When it comes to your site, you want it to be a streamlined experience, one where visitors can find exactly what they want with ease. You don’t want it to be a labyrinth, one where they hit dead-ends in the form of 404 error pages. These happen all the time when you make updates to the site, so all it takes is setting up 301 redirects.
While this is important for creating a superior user experience, it’s important for your ranking, too. Google can’t crawl these broken pages, which can cause you to lose any SEO momentum you’ve built. By using tools like SEMRush or LinkMiner to determine which pages or links are defunct, you can then go back and make those redirects.
4. Use Structured Data to Your Advantage
If you’re familiar with rich snippets or rich results in rankings, this will make sense. If not, here’s a quick primer: structured data is code in a specific format that makes it more attractive to search engines. And if search engines love it, the reward is search results displayed in a more eye-catching way. For example, ratings or details, which are an extension of your content, will show up in search engines results pages (SERPs).
Schema.org dictates these fixed formats, and using them gives search engines a much deeper understanding of more than just your website—they gain data on your content and overall business, too. Depending on the product or service you’re offering, using structured data can have a significant impact on your technical SEO efforts.
5. Be Sure To Keep Tabs on Your Backlinks
While having backlinks is normally a positive thing, it’s just like many things in life: you’re only as good as your references. And if your website has amassed poor backlinks over time, it can drag you down in the rankings. In other words, the quality of your backlinks matters just as much as the quantity.
Using the Google Search Console you can handle the due diligence on your backlinks and see what their scores are. Typically a score over 50 means you should take steps to reject it. You can do this by reaching out to domains directly; if that fails, then you can submit a request through the Search Console. Ultimately, backlinks are just another example of how cleaning up your website is a never-ending endeavor.
6. Optimize Your Site for Voice Search
More and more, voice search is taking hold, and many savvy SEO tacticians are using that to their advantage. Here are some quick stats from backlinko.com:
- 41% of adults perform at least one voice search every day
- Voice searches performed in Google are up 35x since 2008
- 20% of all searches on mobile are voice searches
If your site and pages are already ranking high, that will definitely help. But including a question and an answer within your content is the secret sauce. Google’s voice search algorithm also likes to pull from the snippets they’ve already created, so that’s something you should optimize for, too (which is why that’s our next tip).
7. Make Featured Snippets a Priority
A featured snippet is also known as the “Zero Position” because it lands at the top of search pages—which means it also steals traffic from the page that technically ranks the highest. Once again, landing here is all about providing the best answer possible for a user’s specific search.
The starting point is to look for keywords you already rank for, and then cross-reference those with keywords that have featured snippets. Most featured snippets are from pages that are found on the first page, so being in the top 10 for a keyword will help. From there, you can create 40- to 60-word blocks of content on your pages that are ideal for landing in those snippets. However, while featured snippets are often found in paragraph form, they come as lists, tables, and videos, too—so create your content accordingly.
Take Your Technical SEO Seriously
Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of what technical SEO is, why it’s so important, and some small steps you can do to improve your rankings. Obviously, if you need a helping hand that’s what we’re here for, so let us know. Because whether you handle your technical SEO on your own or partner with a technical SEO agency, it’s an important factor in your online efforts.
Interested in peaking behind the curtain to see how your site is performing? That’s exactly why we offer our Technical SEO Audit.
Diona is a managing partner at Knowmad. Her areas of expertise include digital marketing strategy, project management, brand management, search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click advertising, inbound marketing, content marketing, conversion rate optimization, social media marketing and website design.