Boosting your website’s visibility in search engines is essential for staying competitive, and that’s where technical SEO comes into play. In this checklist, we’re breaking down the technical side of website optimization, so you can stand out in search results and improve your site’s user experience.
- Mobile responsiveness
- Website Speed and Core Web Vitals
- XML Sitemap
- Robots.txt File
- Canonical URLs
- SSL Certificate
- URL and Permalink Structure
- Header Tags
- Schema Markup
- 404 Errors
- Image Alt Texts
- Website Security
1. Mobile Responsiveness
Mobile responsiveness is a critical aspect of modern web design, given the exponential rise in mobile device usage. With an increasing number of users accessing websites on smartphones and tablets, ensuring mobile responsiveness is important for a positive user experience. Google also considers mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor, making it essential for SEO.
Optimizing mobile responsiveness involves designing and developing a website to adapt seamlessly to various screen sizes and resolutions. This can be achieved through responsive design techniques, where the layout and content automatically adjust based on the user’s device. Additionally, optimizing images, using flexible grids, and prioritizing mobile-friendly navigation contribute to a smoother mobile experience. Regular testing on different devices and using tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test help to ensure your website provides an accessible experience for everyone.
- Ensure your WordPress theme is not only mobile responsive but prioritizes a seamless user experience on various devices.
- Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to verify mobile optimization.
2. Website Speed and Core Web Vitals
Website speed is a crucial factor influencing both user satisfaction and search engine rankings. Google’s Core Web Vitals are a set of user-centric metrics that measure a web page’s loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability. The three main Core Web Vitals are Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
Focus on these:
- Optimize images by compressing them without compromising quality.
- Leverage lazy loading for images and videos.
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to distribute content globally.
And regularly monitor and optimize for Google’s Core Web Vitals:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Aim for LCP under 2.5 seconds.
- First Input Delay (FID): Target FID under 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Aim for a CLS score of less than 0.1.
Note that starting in March 2024, the FID metric will be replaced by INP (Interaction to next paint). INP tracks all user clicks, not just the first one, so it serves as a better metric for the overall user experience.
Read more about INP: Optimize your site speed – Google now measures it more precisely.
3. XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is a file that provides a roadmap to search engines, outlining the structure and content of a website. It lists URLs along with metadata about each page, such as the last update date, the frequency of changes, and the priority of each page relative to others. XML sitemaps provide a roadmap for search engines, guiding efficient crawling and indexing of a website. They help search engines discover and understand the site’s structure, ensuring that relevant content is included in search results and improving overall visibility. The XML sitemap can also specify canonical URLs, helping search engines understand the preferred version of a page and avoiding issues related to duplicate content.
While XML sitemaps are primarily for search engines, they indirectly contribute to a better user experience by ensuring users can find the most relevant and updated content. If there are issues with certain pages on a website, the XML sitemap can also highlight errors or potential problems, enabling you to fix them quickly.
- Generate an XML sitemap using SEO plugins like Yoast SEO (this is in use on practically all sites we’ve built).
- Submit the sitemap to Google Search Console for regular updates.
4. Robots.txt File
A `robots.txt` file is a text file placed in the root directory of a website to instruct crawlers which pages or sections should not be crawled or indexed. This file is crucial for SEO because it helps prevent the indexing of sensitive or irrelevant content, avoids duplicate content issues, and ensures that search engines focus on crawling and indexing the most important and relevant pages.
- Review and update the robots.txt file to ensure search engine crawlers can access the essential parts of your site.
- Verify that important pages are not unintentionally blocked.
5. Canonical URLs
Canonical URLs are HTML tags that specify the preferred version of a webpage when duplicates exist. They matter for SEO by preventing duplicate content issues, linking SEO signals together for better rankings, and improving crawling efficiency.
- Set canonical URLs for each page to prevent duplicate content issues.
- Use canonical tags to indicate the preferred version of a page.
6. SSL Certificate
An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that encrypts data exchanged between a user’s web browser and a website, ensuring a secure, encrypted connection. It’s crucial for protecting sensitive information, such as login credentials and payment details, and is a standard for building trust between users and websites. Google also uses SSL as a ranking factor.
- Secure your site with an SSL certificate to enable HTTPS.
7. URL and Permalink Structure
For good SEO, a website’s URL structure should be concise, descriptive, and include relevant keywords. Permalink structure refers to the format of URLs for individual pages and posts on a website. It defines how web addresses are constructed, typically incorporating keywords and providing a readable structure. A well-optimized permalink structure is important for SEO, making URLs more user-friendly and better for search engines.
- Keep URLs short, descriptive, and keyword-rich.
- Avoid special characters and unnecessary parameters in URLs.
- Choose a clean and SEO-friendly permalink structure.
8. Header Tags
Header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) and their hierarchy are important for SEO because they structure content and provide a hierarchical outline for search engines. They convey the importance and relationships between different sections of a page, helping search engines understand the context of content. Using header tags the right way improves readability for users and signals to search engines the key topics on a page, contributing to better rankings and a more user-friendly experience.
- Utilize proper header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) for content structure.
- Include relevant keywords within headers for SEO benefits.
- Make sure the content under a header is related to that header
In WordPress, the Gutenberg editor is great for managing headline hierarchy due to its intuitive block-based system. You can easily create different heading levels by simply selecting the appropriate heading block, making the content easy to structure. The visual interface lets you see the hierarchy clearly, ensuring consistency and readability across your pages.
9. Schema Markup
Schema markup is a code added to a website to provide search engines with additional information about the content. It helps search engines understand the context and meaning of the information on a page. This enhances the display of search results with rich snippets, improving visibility and click-through rates. Schema markup also contributes to better-organized search engine results and helps search engines provide more relevant information to users.
- Implement schema markup to provide search engines with additional information.
- Validate schema markup using Google’s tools.
10. 404 Errors
Websites give 404 errors when the requested page is not found on the server. This could be due to a broken link, a page being removed or moved without a redirect, or a mistyped URL. 404 errors negatively impact user experience and SEO, so it’s essential to address and fix them promptly.
- Regularly check for 404 errors using Google Search Console.
- Redirect or fix broken links to enhance user experience and SEO.
11. Image Alt Texts
Image alt text serves as an alternative text that appears if the image fails to load, providing accessibility for users with visual impairments. Alt text helps search engines understand the content of the image, contributing to better rankings and image search optimization.
- Provide descriptive alt text for all images for accessibility and SEO.
- Include relevant keywords naturally within alt text.
Pagination is the practice of dividing content across multiple pages, often seen in articles, product listings, or search results. It matters for SEO because it helps manage large volumes of content, enhancing user experience. Proper pagination with the use of rel=”next” and rel=”prev” tags signals to search engines the relationship between paginated pages, preventing duplicate content issues. It also improves crawlability and ensures that search engines index and rank the content accurately, positively impacting SEO.
- Use proper pagination techniques to avoid duplicate content issues.
Breadcrumbs are navigational aids that display the hierarchical structure of a website and the user’s path. They provide context to search engines, helping to understand the relationships between pages. This contributes to better-organized search results and improved user satisfaction, indirectly benefiting SEO efforts.
- Enable breadcrumbs for better navigation and user experience. With the Yoast SEO plugin, you can easily add breadcrumbs to single posts and pages with the breadcrumbs block.
14. Website Security
Last but not least, the security of your website is essential for SEO, so keep your site’s themes and plugins updated. Updates often include patches for vulnerabilities, addressing potential entry points for cyber threats. Regular updates help protect websites from security breaches, ensuring a safer online environment for both the site owner and visitors.
- Keep themes, and plugins updated for security.
- Install a security plugin to protect against common threats.
By following these guidelines and regularly auditing your site, you will meet the standards of technical SEO and ensure a technically sound website that not only pleases search engines but also enhances your overall user experience.
Interested in an SEO audit? Contact us!