What is technical SEO?
Technical SEO is the part of SEO that focusses on the backend of your website. Specifically you’ll be focussing on the design and structure of your website. By applying technical SEO on your website, it makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index it.
Search engines will also reward you with better rankings in the search results if you meet their expectations. Now that we know what technical SEO is, it’s time to see what we can do to improve our website.
1. Check if search engines can find your website
It is, of course, important that search engines can find your website. You can check if your website is present in Google by using the site operator. When you enter “site:www.phpro.be” in Google as an example, it will return all indexed pages for PHPro.
If there are no results for your website, you can submit your URL to Google. You can also do this with other search engines like Bing.
2. Make use of robots.txt
The robots.txt file indicates which pages shouldn’t be indexed by a search engine. Certain pages like a shopping cart or a check-out page shouldn’t be indexed because they are irrelevant to a search engine and different for every user.
You also don’t want pages with parameters to be indexed, because this leads to a lot of pages with similar or identical content. An example of this is a product page with multiple variations (like colour) that only add parameters to the URL. In this case it’s better to only index the original product and not the variations.
Make sure to check if your robots.txt file isn’t blocking pages that you want search engines to index. This could lead to search engines missing an important part of your website.
3. Provide a sitemap for search engines
A sitemap contains the most important pages on your website. A search engine will check the sitemap to find out where it can find the pages. It’s also important that you don’t include pages from robots.txt in your sitemap since you don’t want these pages to be indexed.
A sitemap can also contain other useful information like:
- When a page was edited
- Which priority a page has
- How often a page is updated
The sitemap had to be present on your website, but you can also submit it to search engines yourself.
4. Assure a safe connection
You can assure a safe connection for your website by using HTTPS. To do this you need an SSL certificate on your website that will encrypt all traffic. When you use HTTP, traffic isn’t encrypted and anyone could easily intercept it.
You can find a more extensive explanation about the security of HTTPS in our article about cybersecurity tips for e-commerce, but besides the safety it also has a positive effect on your ranking in search results. Since 2014 Google gives pages that use HTTPS a small boost in their ranking. On top of the better ranking, it also improves the confidence your customers have in your website.
5. Make your website responsive and mobile friendly
In 2015 Google announced that the would prefer responsive and mobile friendly websites in their search engine. Because of the increasing amount of mobile traffic, it is a logical evolution to include this in the search engine algorithm.
There are multiple tools to scan your website and check if it’s mobile friendly. Some examples of this are:
- Google’s Mobily-Friendly Test
- HubSpot’s Website Grader
- Bing’s Mobile Friendliness Test Tool
6. Check the speed of your website
The speed of your website is another factor that influences your rank in the search results. It’s important to check how well your website scores on speed. There are multiple tools available that give you a score and even suggestions about possible changes.
Some of these tools are:
- Google’s PageSpeed Insights
7. Optimize your images
As mentioned in the previous tip, speed is a ranking factor. An e-commerce website usually has a lot of images, so it’s important to optimize them so they don’t impact your site speed too much.
Some points you need to check your images for are:
- Images are the right size
- Images have the correct format (.jpg, .png)
- File size of images is limited (Max. 100 to 200 kb)
- Alt tags from images are filled In and descriptive
8. Eliminate 404 pages and broken links
If your website has 404 pages, this means the pages no longer exist but there are still links to it. These links can be on your own website or because the page was indexed by Google before it was removed. A link to a page that no longer exists is also called a broken link.
When a search engine encounters a 404 page while crawling, this negatively impacts your ranking. A 404 page is best replaced with a 301 redirect to a relevant page.
Finding 404 pages and broken links can be a difficult task, that’s why you can use the following tools:
- Google Search Console under Crawl Errors à “Not Found”
9. Use the right 3xx codes
When a page is (re)moved permanently, it’s important to use the 301 code (moved permanently). A 301 code ensures that the search engine will transfer the value* of the page to the new page, if the new page is relevant.
If you use a 302 or 307 code, it’s seen as a temporary move. A search engine won’t immediately transfer the value* of the page to the new page because it believes this is only temporary.
After a longer period of time, the value will be transferred to the new page, but it takes longer than with a 301. Because of this it’s better to use a 301 if the page is moved permanently.
You also need to make sure that every page only had one redirect. A search engine won’t know which redirect to follow if there are multiple on a single page and causes a redirect loop.
* Value in this case is the reputation a page has built up in the search engine
10. Make use of canonicals
Having duplicate or very similar pages on your website can have a negative influence on your ranking. To avoid this, you need to use canonicals.
A canonical tag indicates that there is an original version of the page. A search engine will only index one page when there are multiple similar or identical pages. With canonical tags you can make sure that the right page is indexed.
Because of the canonical tag, the search engine will index the right page. When deciding the rank, it will also take the information on the other pages into account.
Technical SEO checklist
- Website is indexed
- Robots.txt is up to date
- Sitemap is present
- https is used
- website is responsive and mobile friendly
- Images have the right size
- Images use the right format (.jpg, .png)
- File size of images is limited (Max. 100 to 200kb)
- No 404 pages and broken links on your website
- Correct 3xx codes
- Eliminate redirect loops
- Canonicals are used
- Remove unused CSS
- CSS is minified
- Use Hreflang for languages and regions
Following and implementing all these tips seems like a lot of work, but it will result in a better performing website. If you take the time to apply technical SEO now, it will pay off in the future with better visibility in search engines. This increased visibility will eventually lead to more customers and revenue.
If you need help with applying SEO, at PHPro we have the technical and strategic knowledge to optimize your website and help you get better results. So don’t hesitate, and contact us.
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