Technical SEO issues can often get in the way of you leveraging the ranking and traffic potential of content campaigns. So it makes sense for you to make sure all of the technical problems are found and addressed before you start with creating and optimizing content and on-page elements. You can use this technical SEO checklist to make sure your technical SEO is solid before moving on to the “left brain” stuff.
Google Search Console (GSC)
Trying to do technical SEO without having Google Search Console setup is like trying to drive a car without tires. It just isn’t going to work. Make sure you have GSC profiles created for all of your site variations including:
Creating these profiles will allow you to check configurations on the valid URL but also look at duplicate content and potential security issues that can impact other variations of your site. Having GSC configured can provide insight into technical problems like:
- Site crawling and indexation
- On-page content indexation
- Content duplication
- Security issues
- Mobile usability
Site Crawling & Indexing
The biggest SEO problems usually involve sites with duplicate content issues or problems getting all of the content indexed. The best way to check whether you have issues is to crawl the site using software like Screaming Frog and then compare the number of HTML pages identified in the crawl to the indexation numbers you can pull out of GSC. Additionally, you should do a manual check in Google and Bing using a site: command.
If these numbers are all relatively close, then you have a healthy website. If these numbers are off by more than 10%, then you have a crawling and indexation issue that needs to be addressed.
If you find discrepancies in these numbers, then you may need to dig deeper into common causes of these types of issues.
If there are too many pages indexed, look at site and page canonicalization and sources of duplicate content. If there are too few pages indexed, then you may need to look into whether your robots.txt or on-page robots tags are blocking content. Poor internal linking, iframes, bad pagination structure can also cause internal linking problems that result in content being uncrawlable.
Having well-configured XML sitemaps is also critical to your foundational SEO and can help you spot indexation problems. Most companies never look at these after they are created, which is why you need to take some time to dig into what’s going on with your XML sitemaps.
You want to check whether the URLs in the sitemaps are valid and up-to-date. If I had a dollar every time I found that the XML sitemaps were linking to non-valid versions of URLs, I would be a rich man.
Other things to consider when evaluating your XML sitemaps include:
- The percentage of content getting indexed versus what was submitted
- Sitemap Segmentation and whether files are broken into small groups of like content – think products versus categories versus blog.
- Use of optional tags like and can get in the way of natural indexation, so we suggest you remove these.
Checking for proper site and page canonicalization is critical to a solid SEO foundation. Improper canonicalization is the most common technical issue we see when we do technical SEO audits.
This check is a manual process – you can use Chrome Developer Tools to look at the status codes when you enter different site variations. Inspect source code for things like proper canonical tag usage.
301 redirects are the best way to handle canonicalization at the site level. If https://www.example.com is the valid version or canonical version of your site, you want to make sure you have 301 redirects in place when you enter in alternate site variations like:
You also want to make sure that page-level variations like trailing slash and index.html are handled with either 301 redirects or canonical tags that reference the valid version of the page.
On-Page Content Indexation
You can’t have good SEO if Google can’t index the content on your pages, so checking whether their crawler is seeing everything on your pages is critical.
Use GSC to Perform Fetch-and-Renders on several pages. Look for issues and content or files that get blocked by your robots.txt.
It is also a good idea to do manual checks of Google’s text cache for pages. Manual checks are the best way to determine whether all of your on-page content
Improperly configured DNS settings can wreak havoc with your SEO. Most companies never check this, so this is something you want to take a look at, especially if you have changed your hosting provider in the recent past.
We like to use Pingdom’s DNS checking tool to look at whether things like Connectivity, Delegation, Nameserver, Consistency, and SOA are OK.
Both users and Googlebot love fast sites! In 2017, slow loading pages will get in the way of getting SEO traction, so you need to make sure that your pages load quickly for both desktop and mobile users.
We like to evaluate page speed based on what Google Analytics is reporting, and then use tools like Pingdom’s Page Speed Tester to evaluate specific issues affecting desktop clients. Doing so allows us to create a burndown list of opportunities that we can pass off to a development team for improving load time. The biggest culprit of site speed issues that we tend to see with B2B and B2C clients alike is image size!
Google’s new Mobile Page Speed Checker helps you look at your site’s load time specifically from a mobile user perspective. This application will email you a list of things to improve after making an initial evaluation.
You can no longer expect to compete in SEO if your pages are not mobile friendly. Even Google says so! In fact, mobile friendliness now affects your desktop organic rankings.
Just because your site your site is responsive or has a mobile-friendly version doesn’t mean that your smartphone users or Google are happy.
Use the mobile usability report available in GSC as your first line of defense. It is also advisable to run through the mobile report in Google Analytics to look for platforms and operating systems with bounce rates and conversion rates that are well below the site average. Reviewing this information will help you identify platforms were mobile usability may be subpar.
We also like to use Chrome Developer Tools to “spoof” various mobile devices and then take some time surfing the site. We’ll look at conversion points such as mobile call functionality or poorly configured forms that may have usability problems.
Taking the time to dig into technical problems before you begin to focus on content and on-page SEO optimization will create a better outcome in the long-term. You want to use this technical SEO checklist to identify and fix any major technical issues that will keep the core SEO activities from bearing fruit.
Need more help fixing your technical SEO issues? Contact the SEO team at Volume Nine today – we’re here to help!