The first step in any complete SEO strategy is improving your technical SEO. Ensuring that your website is in tip-top shape helps lead to more organic traffic, ranking keywords, and conversions.
No matter what industry your brand or company is in, the principles of technical SEO have never been more important. Google announced its Google Page Experience update--which includes page experience signals as a ranking factor--will be launching in May 2021.
So, to ensure you’re putting your best technical SEO foot forward, turn to the experts at Perfect Search. Without further ado, here is our ultimate technical SEO checklist.
The Ultimate Technical SEO checklist (2021)
1. Update your page experience – core metrics
If you need a refresher, Google’s Core Web Vitals are comprised of 3 factors:
- First Input Delay (FID) – FID measures when someone can first interact with the page. To ensure a good user experience, the page should have an FID of less than 100 ms.
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – LCP measures the loading performance of the largest contentful element on screen. This should happen within 2.5 seconds to provide a good user experience.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – This measures the visual stability of elements on screen. Sites should strive for their pages to maintain a CLS of less than .1 seconds.
These ranking factors can be measured in a report found in Google Search Console, which shows you which URLs have potential issues:
- Implementing lazy-loading for non-critical images
- Optimizing image formats for the browser
2. Crawl your site and look for any crawl errors
Second, you’ll want to be sure your site is free from any crawl errors. Crawl errors occur when a search engine tries to reach a page on your website but fails.
You can use Screaming Frog, Deep Crawl, seoClarity – there are many tools out there to help you do this. Once you’ve crawled the site, look for any crawl errors. You can also check this with Google Search Console.
When scanning for crawl errors, you’ll want to...
a) Correctly implement all redirects with 301 redirects.
b) Go through any 4xx and 5xx error pages to figure out where you want to redirect them to.
Bonus: To take this to the next level, you should also be on the lookout for instances of redirect chains or loops, where URLs redirect to another URL multiple times.
3. Fix broken internal and outbound links
Poor link structure can cause a poor user experience for both humans and search engines. It can be frustrating for people to click a link on your website and find that it doesn’t take them to the correct--or working--URL.
You should make sure you check for a couple of different factors:
links that are 301 or 302 redirecting to another page
links that go to a 4XX error page
orphaned pages (pages that aren’t being linked to at all)
An internal linking structure that is too deep
To fix broken links, you should update the target URL or remove the link altogether if it doesn’t exist anymore.
4. Get rid of any duplicate or thin content
Make sure there’s no duplicate or thin content on your site. Duplicate content can be caused by many factors, including page replication from faceted navigation, having multiple versions of the site live, and scraped or copied content.
It’s important that you are only allowing Google to index one version of your site. For example, search engines see all of these domains as different websites, rather than one website:
Fixing duplicate content can be implemented in the following ways:
Setting up 301 redirects to the primary version of the URL. So if your preferred version is https://www.abc.com, the other three versions should 301 redirect directly to that version.
Implementing no-index or canonical tags on duplicate pages
Setting the preferred domain in Google Search Console
Setting up parameter handling in Google Search Console
Where possible, deleting any duplicate content
5. Migrate your site to HTTPS protocol
Back in 2014, Google announced that HTTPS protocol was a ranking factor. So, in 2021, if your site is still HTTP, it’s time to make the switch.
HTTPS will protect your visitors’ data to ensure that the data provided is encrypted to avoid hacking or data leaks.
6. Make sure your URLs have a clean structure
Straight from the mouth of Google: “A site’s URL structure should be as simple as possible.”
Overly complex URLs can cause problems for crawlers by creating unnecessarily high numbers of URLs that point to identical or similar content on your site.
As a result, Googlebot may be unable to completely index all the content on your site.
Here are some examples of problematic URLs:
Sorting parameters. Some large shopping sites provide multiple ways to sort the same items, resulting in a much higher number of URLs. For example:
Irrelevant parameters in the URL, such as referral parameters. For example:
Where possible, you’ll want to shorten URLs by trimming these unnecessary parameters.
7. Ensure your site has an optimized XML sitemap
XML sitemaps tell search engines about your site structure and what to index in the SERP.
An optimized XML sitemap should include:
Any new content that’s added to your site (recent blog posts, products, etc.).
Only 200-status URLs.
No more than 50,000 URLs. If your site has more URLs, you should have multiple XML sitemaps to maximize your crawl budget.
You should exclude the following from the XML sitemap:
URLs with parameters
URLs that are 301 redirecting or contain canonical or no-index tags
URLs with 4xx or 5xx status codes
You can check the Index Coverage report in Google Search Console to see if there are any index errors with your XML sitemap:
8. Make sure your site has an optimized robots.txt file
Robots.txt files are instructions for search engine robots on how to crawl your website.
Every website has a “crawl budget,” or a limited number of pages that can be included in a crawl – so it’s imperative to make sure that only your most important pages are being indexed.
On the flip side, you’ll want to make sure your robots.txt file isn’t blocking anything that you definitely want indexed.
Here are some example URLs that you should disallow in your robots.txt file:
Cart & checkout pages
URLs that contain parameters
Finally, you’ll want to include the location of the XML sitemap in the robots.txt file. You can use Google’s robots.txt tester to verify your file is working correctly.
9. Add structured data or schema markup
Structured data helps provide information about a page and its content – giving context to Google about the meaning of a page, and helping your organic listings stand out on the SERPs.
One of the most common types of structured data is called schema markup.
There are many different kinds of schema markups for structuring data for people, places, organizations, local businesses, reviews, and so much more.
An agency can ensure this checklist is complete--and so much more. Get in touch with the experts at Perfect Search and request a comprehensive site audit today!