What Is Technical SEO? Best Practices & Checklist!

October 20, 2022

Technical SEO is ensuring that your website's code and content are configured so that search engines can easily crawl, understand, and index them. 

Technical SEO covers everything to do with the technical aspects of your website or web application. 

These include how it looks, its structure, and how fast it loads, all the factors search engines use to determine how to rank it in their search results. 

In this guide, you'll learn about all the technical SEO factors, discover actionable strategies and tactics to improve your site's technical health and avoid common pitfalls in your approach to technical SEO. 

Let's get started!

What is Technical SEO?

The technical elements of SEO include ensuring your site is set up so that search engines can easily crawl and rank it. 

If you're confused, don't worry—it can be a bit complicated to understand what technical SEO involves and numerous factors to consider. 

In short, technical elements affect how search engines process information about your website and determine its ranking potential. 

Technical SEO can significantly impact how well your business ranks online (especially for long-tail keyword phrases), so you must get it right.

Why is Technical SEO Important?

Technical SEO is one of several strategies you'll need if you want to achieve higher rankings in search results and get more organic visitors. 

Unfortunately, most people skip over technical work and start right into content creation—and that's a huge mistake. 

If you have an issue with your site that's preventing users from getting what they want, or if you don't have enough information about your users' preferences and habits, it won't matter how appealing your content is; no one will be able to find it. 

Before creating great content, you have to ensure there are no issues on your website that would prevent anyone from finding it. That's where technical SEO comes in. 

It takes time and effort, but once you do everything correctly, your website will be optimized for search engines and users. 

Then, when Google (or any other search engine) crawls through your site and indexes its pages, it'll see exactly what searchers see when they type their queries into Google Search: a user-friendly experience that gets them exactly what they want.

What is a Technical SEO Audit?

A technical SEO audit is one of the most effective ways to identify and fix issues with your website. 

Once you understand how your website works—from a code level—you can identify areas that need attention, optimize performance, and ensure Google understands it correctly. 

A technical SEO audit isn't something you can outsource; it requires knowledge of what makes websites work on a code level. 

We've put together our guide for beginners who want to get started with their first technical SEO audit. It also includes an exhaustive list of tools to help you and any issues arising during an audit.

woman working on website at computer

Technical SEO Checklist

Every business has unique challenges to its success. Because of that, a one-size-fits-all approach won't be beneficial for your business. If you're considering launching a website and want to gain access to our best technical SEO checklist, read below:

Specify a Preferred Domain

Your domain is your business's home on the internet, and it's important to get it right. But what makes a good domain name, and how can you ensure that yours is both distinctive and memorable? 

You need to consider three things: your audience, your company's goals and any keywords or phrases relevant to those goals. 

To determine which domain name might be most effective for you, think about how people in your industry would use search engines to find products or services like yours—and then make sure your preferred domain is one of their top choices when they type in those search queries. 

Optimize Robots.txt

Most people think of robots.txt as a tool for limiting crawler access to parts of your website, but you can also use it to help humans. 

For example, if you're running an A/B test and want to ensure that traffic only flows to one variation's page, specify that in your robots.txt file. 

You'll get much more detailed control over user-agent exclusion, for instance, blocking specific search engine crawlers or excluding bots by name. 

While it's not necessary to do either at launch, there are situations where they're incredibly helpful (and when you need them, they're indispensable). 

Optimize Your URL Structure

Optimizing your URL structure is one of the most common and effective ways to improve your site's visibility in Google's search results. URLs are critical for a variety of reasons:

  • They give potential searchers a preview of what they're about to click on.
  • They tell Google where each page fits within your website (helping it better understand and rank you).
  • They help differentiate you from competitors.

A lot can go wrong with more than 1 trillion URLs on nearly every site. From duplicate content issues to improper use of keywords in URLs (spoiler alert: you should never do that), there are all sorts of opportunities for error out there.

Navigation and Site Structure

Most search engines are programmed to favour websites with logical, user-friendly navigation and site structure. 

One of the best things you can do for your website is to make it easy to navigate. To do that, make sure your URLs follow a consistent format (i.e., they're segmented by folders and subfolders). 

Moreover, ensure that users can reach all your content without having to scroll horizontally through links. 

If there's information, they should be able to access but can't because of a poorly designed menu or column layout, consider placing it elsewhere on your site or using links within the text, so users don't have to hunt for it.

Breadcrumb Menus

Breadcrumb navigation is a navigational tool that's highly recommended for websites. They guide users from an overview of a site to an individual page, ensuring they don't get lost. 

They also improve search engine visibility by using a URL structure that helps robots navigate your website properly.

Implement Structured Data Markup

If you're planning to publish your content on platforms like Google News and Facebook, it's a good idea to include structured data markup (Microdata) in your copy. 

This will help you create more accurate meta information for search engines and allow users to share or interact with specific content on certain platforms. 

Most publishing software has an easy way of doing so, but if yours doesn't, use any web developer tool to implement it. It should only take a couple of minutes at most.

woman working on laptop on desk

Canonical URLs

When you set a URL as canonical, it tells Google to index that page instead of others. 

For example, if you have multiple pages with similar content (for example, /page-1/, /page-2/, and /page-3/), then tell Google which page is considered your real page by setting up a canonical tag on all three pages. 

This helps to streamline things so Google knows which URL it should rank.

Optimize 404 Page

Before your site even has content, you must ensure it works. Page and load speed are vital parts of that equation, and a good place to start is by having an awesome 404-page design. 

A high-quality 404 page can give users context on what went wrong and provide them with a clear path on how to fix things. 

The page should also be fully optimized for search engines so that if anyone ends up via a search engine query, they still find your site valuable enough to return to.

XML Sitemap Optimization

First, you need to know what an XML sitemap is: it's a file that lets search engines know what pages are on your site. 

XML is an acronym for eXtensible Markup Language, and these sitemaps use XML to communicate with search engines. 

This can include page titles, meta descriptions, and other important data. 

Optimizing your sitemap with OpenSiteExplorer or Google Search Console XML Sitemaps can create even more opportunities for users to find your website in search results.

SSL and HTTPS Security

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a security protocol that encrypts web traffic to prevent eavesdroppers from seeing or modifying what's being transmitted. 

HTTPS is a variation of SSL used for secure transactions over HTTP, such as those conducted via online checkout forms. All technical SEO specialists should understand and work with these protocols if they want their sites to be given priority in search results.

Website Speed

If you want your site to rank well with search engines, then one of your most important jobs is ensuring that your site loads quickly. 

It's not enough to host your content with a decent hosting provider—you also have to ensure that it's optimized, so it doesn't slow down Google and other search engine crawlers. 

If a page takes too long to load, crawlers will leave before they get a chance to see all of your content.

Mobile Friendliness

While not technically a technical metric, being mobile-friendly is paramount. Google's latest figures show that more than 50 per cent of all online searches are on mobile devices. 

If your website isn't compatible with mobile phones and tablets, you could miss out on a huge chunk of traffic. 

Pagination and Multilingual Websites

Pagination refers to identifying where paginated content lives on a website and whether or not that needs to be specified in search engine results pages (SERPs). 

Some websites have their paginated pages lumped together, while others have them separated. To index correctly, search engines need to know each version of a page, which can be tricky if they're not all named or labelled similarly. 

Multilingual websites require specific labels so search engines can identify these pages and serve relevant results based on geographic location, language or other factors. 

Ensure your website complies with all of these best practices for technical SEO to ensure it ranks well for any target queries it generates.

Google Search Console

The Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is a service by Google that provides website owners with information to monitor and improve their search results. 

The Search Console allows webmasters to submit URLs to be crawled and removed from Google's index and receive notification of any crawl errors. 

It also shows data about a website's performance in search results, including spam reports and messages about technical issues with a website. 

In addition, it offers resources on how to make websites faster and more mobile-friendly.

Bing Webmaster

If you're on Bing and want to see your site rank at #1, then you'll have to work with Microsoft. Unfortunately, there aren't many details available on what factors go into ranking on Bing. 

But rest assured: they take just as much into account as Google does—keywords in URLs, alt text, page load speed, etc.—but some additional elements can help you outrank your competitors.

Final Takeaways

It would be best if you now had a strong grasp of technical SEO concepts and best practices. 

Remember, these are only guidelines, and there will always be exceptions and special cases where it makes sense to deviate from recommendations. 

This is why you need to have a good understanding of how various ranking factors work together. If you can find a reasonable argument for why something is not included in your plan, skip it.