12 Steps To Technical SEO for The Non-Technical Marketer
You may know quite a bit about SEO, and you have all the correct tagging and inbound links for your site, but you are still not ranking high in search results for what you want to.
Or maybe you are designing a new site, and you want to make sure that you rank high in the search results.
In both of these cases, you need to take a dive into technical SEO and see what aspects you can tune up. This post is designed to be an easy-to-follow checklist for technical SEO.
Don’t have time to read on?
(1) Make Your Site Structure Easy to Follow
You site structure should be easy to navigate for visitors so that they know how to get from one page to another, and so that they can easily get back to the pages that they came from.
This is helpful for both from a User eXperience (UX) perspective and so when the Googlebot crawls your site, it will know how to index it. This is when your site menu become very useful.
The pages on your site should be organized similar to an outline with heading and sub-headings. You need to structure supporting pages for any topic under folders of larger topics.
(2) Format Your Blog with Tags and Categories
The most common way to build content for your site is in the form of a blog. But after creating a few dozen posts, it can get difficult for users (and you) to find information on a specific topic.
This is why it’s important to use tags and categories to allow for easy filtering of content. It’s also important to link blog posts to each other.
This is means that if in one blog post you reference another idea that you wrote in another blog post on your site, link that post using the referenced idea as the anchor text. You’ll notice that I did that very thing in the above section.
(3) Make Your Site Mobile Friendly
Did you know that 63% of all U.S. online traffic in 2018 came from smartphones and tablets? And that 51% of all time spent on online in the U.S. was on mobile devices? (Check the sources in this article in Tech Jury.)
This means that you need to make sure that your site is mobile friendly. Whenever you create content on your site, check it on your cell phone too. Sometimes you may need to adjust the menu layout or dimensions of an image. Sometimes you may need to edit a pop-up box that would be difficult to navigate on a small screen.
If you are building your site yourself, most popular site builders have options for mobile friendly site creation.
(4) Optimize Image Format and Size
Your page load speed is important to keeping visitors interested, and it’s also a factor in how high Google ranks your site (learn more about this from Moz).
Image format and size are one of the key factors to your page load time. You should use JPG images for high quality photos, and PNG files to maintain a transparent background for illustrations.
Both options will allow you to keep quality high while maintaining a relatively small file size. For optimal performance, images should be no larger than 500 kb. For more information on this, you can check out this Squarespace description on formatting images.
(5) Use External Platform Hosting for Faster Load Speeds
You may want to upload a video to your site, and that can be a great way to engage users in your content. But it’s a good idea to upload the video to an external platform, then embed the video from that platform on your site.
This is in order to keep your page load time as fast as possible. Youtube is a widely popular (understatement of the year) platform and allows for users to upload unlisted videos that are not searchable but can be seen by those with the link. Embedding a video in a website in order to maximize download time is a great use of unlisted videos.
Remember these tips
(6) Remove Duplicate Content
You may keep a blog (which is a great content strategy) and in an effort to drive more traffic to your blog, you publish the content elsewhere. This will actually push your site down in the search rankings. So will any duplicate content you have on your site.
This is why it’s a good idea to keep track of where you’ve posted your content, and make sure that you work to drive traffic to your original post. It’s also important to keep track of what you’ve already posted on your blog by using the tagging and categories described in the third paragraph of this post. If you are not sure if you have duplicate content, Siteliner is a free service that will analyze your site.
(7) Use Redirects
As you build new content on your site, you may like what it communicates… for a while. But then things may change and you decide to use a different URL. If you have been successful at driving traffic to your site, the first page’s URL will be linked on social and may have an inbound link from another site.
This means that if you change the URL and don’t redirect it, visitors will get a dead link. This will shoot you down on the search results. To circumvent this problem, you need to redirect old URLs to the new URL with the updated content you want to share.
If you use a website builder, there is likely a way to do this without writing code. For example, Squarespace describes here how to create a temporary and permanent redirects, and Wordpress Beginner describes here how to do the same action in Wordpress.
If you are not sure if you have inbound links to a page, you can use Moz’s Link Explorer tool.
(8) Secure Your Site with HTTPS and SSL
All the major web browsers have been making moves to secure content for several years. In January of 2017, Chrome started flagging sites as “not secure” if they do not contain the SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer.
This signals to the user that any passwords or credit cards entered will not be secured. Do avoid this, you should set your site to come from an HTTPS login frame and not the traditional HTTP frame. This can be set up with your web hosting account.
To learn more about how this process, see this article in Small Biz Trends. Then once your site is coming from an HTTPS URL, you need to set up a redirect, like I mentioned in the above paragraph.
(9) Create A Robot.txt File
It may seem common sense that search engine bots will find your site and index it, and they likely will. But you want to be sure that they index your site for what you want them to. This is why a robot.txt file is necessary.
It is a text-only file that tells bots what information is important, and what should be avoided. You site content provider likely creates a robots.txt file for your site automatically.
These files are publicly available and can be found by typing /robots.txt after any URL. For example, www.youURL.com/robots.txt. If you do this to your site, you should see that any hidden pages are disallowed, and those that are are allowed.
To edit robots.text on Wordpress, Will Morris give this guide. To edit robots.text on Squarespace, refer to this article. When your robot.txt file is complete, you can test it with Google’s Markeup Editor.
(10) Add Robots Meta Tags
In certain cases you may not be able edit your robot.txt file, but you can still communicate effectively with with search engines by using meta tags that you can put in the <head> of your site.
If you are using a site content provider, they will have space where you can inject code. When writing the meta tags, you can only us four parameters: follow, index, nofollow, noindex.
To learn more about writing robot meta directives, see this article on Moz. I am shooting you there, because Moz is an authority on SEO, and I don’t want to get nitty gritty with this post. Finally, when you finish with your meta tags, you can check to see if the work by using Screaming Frog, a powerful SEO analyzer.
(11) Use Structured Data
Using structured data, or schema markup, is another way that you can get targeted in your communication with web crawlers about how to read your site. The schema markups are quite expansive, and since this post is directed at non-technical marketers, I’ll direct you to Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
The tool takes you through a series of questions, and at the end, it gives you HTML code that you need to copy and paste in place of the HTML for the page you just ran though the Markup Helper.
(12) Upload An XML Site Map
Once you have done the above steps, you should upload an XML site map to Google. This is a relatively simple process that is another way that your site is technically optimized for SEO.
If you use a site builder platform, they likely have been building your site map as you build your site. You can check this by going to https://yoururl.com/sitemap.xml.
There you will see links for all of your pages and images. You can upload that directly to Google in the Search Console under sitemaps.
(13) Going Past Non-Technical Technical SEO
One you have done all of these steps and you don’t see a change, in traffic to your site, you may want to get more education on this topic. Within this post, I have included links to more information.
Do you like what you read?
I also consulted other articles to make sure my own knowledge on this topic was up to speed. You can see them below:
What’s Technical SEO: 8 Technical Aspects Everyone Should Know by Willemien Hallebeek on Yoast
Technical SEO Strategy 7 Important Tips To Implement in 2019 by Kaitlyn Petro on Impactbnd
A Technical SEO Checklist for The Non-Technical Marketer by Mindy Weinstein on Search Engine Journal
SEO Basics: What Is Site Structure And Why Is It Important? by Marieke van de Rakt on Yoast