A Step-By-Step Guide To Technical SEO

If you get your site's technical SEO wrong, everything else goes down the drain. Get it right, and you've probably solved the number one headache of site optimization and conversion.

In one study, 59 percent of SEO buffs named technical on-site optimization as their most effective SEO strategy. For enterprise and mid-level companies, that figure goes to 65.4 and 66.7 percent, respectively.

What's more?

  • Forty-seven percent of site users expect a page to load within two seconds
  • Going from one second to ten seconds load time will likely send your bounce rate to 123 percent
  • For every second delay in load time, your page's conversion plummets by 12 percent
  • Google will de-rank your site if people visit and return to the search engines in under five seconds

You’ll probably agree: You must understand what technical SEO is and how you can get it right.

What Is Technical SEO?

Search engines prioritize websites that display specific technical characteristics — such as responsive design or a fast loading time — to those that don't. Getting your technical SEO right ensures your website shows up in search results.

Technical SEO is a collection of practices to optimize your website structure and content so that search engines and human visitors can use them without issues. If you do an excellent job, search engines will:

  • Find the site
  • Access its content
  • Crawl the pages
  • Interpret the site’s content and structure correctly
  • Index the site’s pages to appear in search results

In effect, you’ll enjoy better search results and higher rankings. More humans will find you, engage with your content, and convert to leads.

Technical SEO also works the other way around.

If you make technical errors on your site, they can cost you and your business. You won't be the first to prevent search engine bots from crawling your site by unintentionally messing things up in your robots.txt file.

So, you must know what you’re doing.

Based on this technical SEO checklist, this article provides a step-by-step guide that you can use to build your technical SEO audit.

Let’s begin.

Index Your Site’s Pages

An index is a name for the database used by Google, Yahoo, or any other search engine. These indexes contain details on all the websites that search engines can find.

If a website isn’t in a search engine’s index, users won’t locate it. Hence, no organic traffic. And organic search traffic is vital for growing your website and business.

Forty-nine percent of marketers state that organic search has the best return on investment of any marketing channel.

How to Index Your Site’s Pages

Let’s explore how to index your site on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

How to submit URL to Google

Before you begin, type site:yourdomain.com in Google. No results will show up if your page isn’t indexed.

So, if you can’t find your site on Google’s results list, take these steps:

1. Set up the Google Search Console on the Website

You must configure the Search Console and verify that you own the website. Detailed instructions on how to do that are here.

2. Submit the Sitemap

A strong sitemap serves as a guide that leads Google to all of your relevant URLs. Your sitemap is usually located at yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml. If you don’t find it there, check your robots.txt file — check yourdomain.com/robots.txt.

Once you’ve found the sitemap, you need to submit it via the Search Console like this:

Search Console > select your property > Sitemaps > paste in your sitemap URL > hit “submit”

How to Submit a URL to Yahoo and Bing

With several billion pages on their search index, Bing and Yahoo are excellent places to include your web pages. Since Bing retired its public URL submission tool in September 2018, you now have to submit a sitemap in Bing Webmaster Tools.

Webmaster Tools > “add your site” > fill in the form > click “submit”

There's no extra effort for submitting your site to Yahoo. Bing’s index powers the search engine, so you’ve automatically submitted it to Yahoo when you submit to Bing.

Why Page Indexing Is Important

Manual site submission helps you index your site faster. So you’d get the search engines to crawl your site as soon as you post new content.

Fix Crawl Errors

When search engines crawl your site and encounter errors, they dim your site inappropriate to rank high on search results.

You can find your site’s crawl errors in the Index Coverage report in your Search Console dashboard.

Google has stopped reporting site errors. It now reports site-level crawl errors in the Index Coverage report, and you can find individual URL level crawl errors in the URL Inspection tool.

Here’s a snapshot of the errors you can track in your Google Search Console dashboard:

Use the Google URL Inspection Tool

Use the URL Inspection tool to find errors at the individual page level. You can find this tool in the Search Console.

Server Errors

A server error means Google couldn't load a page due to a server issue. Server errors might happen when your website is overloaded with traffic the server can’t handle.

However, fixing a server error depends on the type of server error you’re getting. Common server errors include:

  • Timeout
  • Connection reset
  • Truncated headers
  • Connection refused
  • Connect failed
  • Connect timeout
  • No response

For more tips for fixing each of these errors, you can check here.

Robots Failure

A Robots failure means that Google was unable to retrieve your robots.txt file, located at yourdomain.com/robots.txt.

If you get this error, you should double-check how you’ve set up your robots.txt file. See what pages you’ve instructed Google not to crawl.

Also, triple-check for a Disallow: / line and ensure that line DOES NOT exist — unless you don’t want your website to appear in Google search results.

If your file is in order and you’re still receiving errors, use a server header checker tool to check if your file is returning a 200 or 404 error.

It’s important to note that having no robots.txt at all is better than having one that’s improperly configured.

How to Fix URL Errors

For most sites, Google Search Console will show you the top URL errors per category — desktop, smartphone, and feature phone. For large sites, however, it may not provide enough data to show all the errors.

Soft 404s

Although its name can be misleading, a soft 404 doesn’t return a 404 status code. A soft 404 page returns a 200 HTTP status — which is mostly an empty page.

The most reliable way to fix it is to either make them useful by adding content to the pages or noindex them, so search engines no longer see them.

404 or Not Found Errors

This error occurs when a search engine has requested a URL on your site that’s nonexistent. Even though seeing lots of these “404 or not found” URLs in your Crawl Errors report might be worrisome, it’s not as terrible as it looks.

Google guidelines note that 404 errors do not impact your site’s indexing or ranking. With that side, you should know that fixing your 404s depends on the cause. It could be as simple as

  • Fixing typos in an internal link
  • Adding a page
  • Redirecting the URL to another relevant content on your site if it’s a URL people think exists

If it’s a page you don’t want to revive, you can 301 redirect it to the most relevant page.

Access Denied Errors

These errors occur when a search engine isn’t allowed to access a particular page. Access denied errors are typically caused by:

  • Pages being disallowed by robots.txt
  • Password protecting the page
  • Your hosting provider blocking Googlebot

If you want the blocked pages to appear in search results, you’ll have to fix what’s blocking the search engines. Additionally, you should:

  • Remove the login requirement from the page
  • Remove the URL from your robots.txt file
  • Use the robots.txt tester to check warnings on your robots.txt file
  • Use the robots.txt to test individual URLs against your file
  • Contact your hosting provider to whitelist Googlebot
  • Use Screaming Frog to scan your site, it might prompt you to log in

Not Followed Errors

Not to be mixed up with a “no-follow” link instruction

“Not followed” errors mean that Google couldn’t follow that particular URL. These errors often happen when Google runs into issues with Flash, Javascript, Cookies, or redirects.

To fix this error, use either the URL Inspection tool or the Lynx text browser to view the site as Google would. You can also use a Chrome add-on such as User-Agent Switcher to mimic Google as you browse the pages.

If you don't see the pages loading or don’t see important content on the page, you've probably found your issue. Search engines need links and content to crawl.

Why Fixing Crawl Errors Is Important

Crawl errors significantly affect how your website ranks in Google Search. If left undetected or ignored, your site becomes invisible to your target market.

Stop Your Website from Loading in iFrames

When it comes to iFrames, the bad outweighs the good. They can deliver malicious code — virus, trojan, or spyware — to a computer.

You’d use iFrames to set cookies on your computer. These cookies might never leave even after you clear them from your browser.

How To Block Your Site From iFrame Loading

Although you can block your site from iFrame loading in two ways – X-Frame-Options and Content-Security-Policy – we’ll focus on the former tactic.

Why?

More browsers support the X-Frame-Options header than the Content-Security-Policy option. With that in mind, you should know that the X-Frame-Options header has three settings:

  • The DENY setting, which blocks all iFrames requests,
  • The SAMEORIGIN setting which permits your site to iFrame its content, and
  • The ALLOW-FROM setting lets you choose trusted locations that can iFrame your pages. You should exercise caution when using this option because it’s not recognized by all browsers and could leave you vulnerable to attacks.

Block iFrames Using .htaccess

If you’re sharing your site’s hosting, you probably won’t have access to the Apache configuration. Luckily, you can set the X-Frame-Options header by inserting one of the following codes to your .htaccess file:

header set x-frame-options DENY – to deny users from iFraming your site

header set x-frame-options SAMEORIGIN – to deny users, except those with the same origin, iFraming your site

header set x-frame-options ALLOW-FROM https://yourdomain.com to deny users, except specified domains, iFraming your site to

Rename yourdomain.com to the domain you want to grant iFraming access.

Blocking iFrames on Apache

If you aren’t using shared hosting and can access your Apache files, you can add the following code in your httpd.conf file:

header always set x-frame-options “SAMEORIGIN”

Blocking iFrames on Nginx

For this, you’ll need to add the following lines to your server block configuration:

header always set x-frame-options “SAMEORIGIN”

Blocking iFrames on Internet Information Services (IIS)

If you’re using Windows for your website, you’ll need to add the following lines to your web.config file:

<system.webServer>

<httpProtocol>

<customHeaders>

<add name=”X-Frame-Options” value=”sameorigin” />

</customHeaders>

</httpProtocol>

</system.webServer>

Alternatively, use the IIS Manager GUI to configure your iFraming rights by:

  • Opening the IIS Manager
  • Expanding the Sites folder, which should be under the Connections pane on the left side, and choose the site that you intend to protect
  • Double-clicking the HTTP Response Headers icon, which will appear in the feature list in the middle
  • Clicking Add in the Actions pane on the right side
  • Typing X-Frame-Options in the Name field of the dialogue box that appears
  • Typing SAMEORIGIN in the Value field, and
  • Click OK to save your changes

Why Blocking iFrames Is Important

Using the SAMEORIGIN x-frame-options header for your website protects you and your users from clickjacking, fraud, or theft of content.

Check Robot.txt

One way to drive your search engine optimization is to take more control of how search engines crawl your site. That’s what you do with the robots.txt.

The robots.txt file is also called the robots exclusion protocol or standard.

The robots.txt instructs search engine bots not to crawl distinct pages or sections of a website.

How to Create a robots.txt File

Being a text file, you can easily create a robots.txt using Windows notepad. Luckily, the format for creating one is the same.

User-agent: X

Disallow: Y

Where user-agent is the specific bot that you're addressing, and whatever comes after “disallow” are URLs you want to block.

For example:

User-agent: googlebot

Disallow: /pictures

This rule automatically tells Googlebot not to index the picture folder of your site. You can also use an asterisk (*) to instruct bots that crawl your website.

For example:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /videos

The “*” tells all bots not to crawl your videos folder.

How to Find a robots.txt File

Once your robots.txt file is ready, it should be placed in your website’s top-level directory. It MUST be named “robots.txt” because it is case sensitive.

You, and anybody else, can find your robots.txt file by adding /robots.txt to the end of any root domain—for example, https://www.google.com/robots.txt.

How to Optimize robots.txt for SEO

How you optimize your robots.txt file depends on your site’s content. There are several ways to use robots.txt to your advantage.

One such way is to tell bots not to crawl your sites thank you pages. So if that page is found at https://yourdomain.com/thank-you/, blocking it in your robots.txt file would look like this:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /thank-you/

How to Test Your robots.txt File

Once you’ve created or modified, found, and optimized your robots.txt file, you’ll need to test everything to ensure they’re working correctly.

To do this, log into your Google Webmasters account and follow the direction here.

You have the option to submit your updated robots.txt file or test your site’s robots.txt file to know if it’s blocking Google’s crawlers.

Click on the robots.txt Tester button.

Select the property the right property from the dropdown.

Once you’ve selected a property, it directs you to an editor. If there’s a code in the box already, delete and replace it with your newly created robots.txt.

Click “Test.” It should be on the lower right part of your screen.

If the “Test” text changes to “Allowed,” it means your robots.txt is valid.

If you encounter any problems, you can edit the syntax directly in the tester.

Continue running the tests until everything is smooth, then upload your robots.txt to your root directory (or save it there if you already had one).

Why Checking Your Robots.Txt Is Important

If done correctly, there should be an increase in your search visibility. Robots.txt also maximizes search engines’ crawl budgets by instructing them not to crawl your website’s parts that you don’t need to rank in SERPs.

You can learn about using robots.txt and its syntax here.

Deindex Site Pages

Even though indexing your pages can increase your authority on search engine results pages, deindexing is just as effective.

How?

Deindexing pages means that search engine results drive traffic to relevant pages. It prevents unimportant pages from appearing when users search the web for your content.

Pages that should be deindexed include:

  • Duplicate content
  • Thank you pages
  • Admin and login pages
  • Internal search results

How to Deindex Site’s Pages

There are two ways to deindex your website pages.

Using Meta Tags

Meta tags — noindex and nofollow tags — are an easy way to deindex pages from search rankings. While adding a noindex tag keeps pages from showing up on any Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), a nofollow tag stops search engines from crawling links on the selected page.

Inserting the tags is as simple as adding the tag you copied to your page’s Hypertext Markup Language section. Just open the source code for the webpage you intend to deindex. Then, paste the tag into a new line within the <head> section of the HTML.

Always avoid pasting a noindex or nofollow tag outside of the </head> tag as it signifies the header’s end. Save the changes to the code, and you’re done.

Create a robots.txt File

In addition to the details shared above, here are some robots.txt codes that might be helpful:

Allowing everything to be indexed:

User-agent: *

Disallow:

or

User-agent: *

Allow: /

Disallowing indexing:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /

Deindexing a specific folder:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /folder/

Why Deindexing Some Site Pages Is Important

Control what users find. Direct traffic to relevant pages and prevent irrelevant pages from coming up when users search for your content via Google.

Use XML Sitemaps

A sitemap is an XML format, which lists site URLs, each of which has specific metadata. XML sitemaps are essential to SEO since they make it easier for search engines to find websites.

How to Create Sitemaps for Images

By creating an XML sitemap for images, there's a likelihood that images from the site will appear in Google search results. Using an XML sitemap for images will also help a search engine find content that’s loaded using JavaScript.

The main tags for describing images include:

<image: image> – information about one image.

<image: loc> – URL of the image.

<image: caption> – caption to the image.

<image: geo_location> – image location

<image: license> – the URL of the image license.

How to Create Sitemaps For Videos

Thanks to additional metadata, the probability of a video appearing in Google search results at higher positions becomes better.

The main tags for creating video sitemaps include:

<loc> – web page of the video’s location

<video: title> – the video title (up to 100 characters)

<video: player_loc> – the location of the video’s player

<video: content_loc> – the placement of a specific video

<video: thumbnail_loc> – the video preview (shouldn't exceed 120×90 pixels)

<video: video> – a container for describing the video

<video: description> – the description of the video (up to 2000 characters)

If you’d rather avoid the manual hassle, you can use:

  • PowerMapper Desktop
  • Screaming Frog
If you use WordPress, these plugins can generate an XML sitemap. A third option is to use online XML sitemaps creators such as
Yoast XML-sitemaps
Google XML Sitemaps XML Sitemap Generator
Rank Math My Sitemap Generator
Premium SEO Pack Web-Site-Map
All in One SEO Pack

Why Using Sitemaps Is Important

Using an XML sitemap makes search engine crawlers more efficient in

  • Prioritizing web pages
  • Fixing the refresh frequency of a site’s pages and
  • Scanning media content

XML Sitemaps are also crucial for scanning the site’s news feed and indexing all the necessary pages.

Use Hreflang Tags for Multilingual Settings

If your website has content in several languages, then the hreflang attribute must be acknowledged and used. For example, if we Google “Amazon official website” in the US, this is the first result:

If we do the same search in France, we see this version of the page:

Hreflang makes that possible.

How to Create Hreflang Tags

Hreflang tags use easy-to-recall and consistent syntax:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”y” href=”https://samplesite.com/alternate-page” />

Here’s a breakdown of each code:

  • link rel=“alternate”: The link in this tag is an alternate version of this page.
  • hreflang=“y”: It’s alternate because it’s in a different language, and that language is y.
  • href=“https://samplesite.com/alternate-page”: The alternate page can be found at this URL.

So, for English speakers in the United States, a Hreflang tag would be:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-us” href=”https://example.com/us/yes” />

For English speakers in the United Kingdom, it’d be:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-gb” href=”https://example.com/uk/yes” />

How to Implement Hreflang Tags

Google recognizes three ways of using the hreflang tags:

  • HTML tags: You can implement this by adding any appropriate hreflang tags in the <head> tag of your web page.
  • HTTP headers: If you have a non-HTML page such as a PDF, you can use HTTP headers to specify document variants’ relative language.
  • Sitemaps: Since sitemaps can include relevant markup to specify the hreflang of a page and its variants, you can use the XHTML:link attribute.

You can also rely on SEO tools like Rank Math and Yoast to execute hreflang tags on your site.

Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Hreflang Tags

Although these mistakes seem avoidable, you’d be surprised how frequently they occur. They include:

  • Indicating a different language version of the website in the canonical tag
  • Using relative URLs
  • Enter the wrong country code. For instance, if you use hreflang=”uk” instead of hreflang=”en-gb” for the United Kingdom

Why Using Hreflang Tags Is Important

Catering to a search engine user’s native tongue improves user experience. That often translates to fewer people clicking away from your page and returning to the search results.

Implementing hreflang tags also results in higher time spent on your pages and a lower bounce rate. All these ultimately have a positive impact on SEO and site rankings.

Confirm the Correct Setting of Canonical Tags

Canonical tags help search engines recognize which is the original page in case of duplicated pages or content.

In the presence of duplicate content and the absence of this tag, the search engine doesn’t understand which pages are canonical and relevant in the search results.

Thus, by including a canonical tag, you ask the search engine to rank this URL in search results.

How to Write Canonical Tags on Your Site

If you’re writing canonical tags on your site, you should include them in the <head> section in the source code of the page you’re trying to specify a canonical link for. If the tag is not noted in the <head>, search engines will ignore it.

If you use CMS platforms, most of them allow you to add canonical tags without accessing the source code.

How to Write Canonical Tags in WordPress

WordPress allows you to add rel=“canonical” to your pages. The method you use depends on your plugin.

In RankMath, you can find the “Advanced” tab at the bottom of your content editor. Click on it.

Scroll down a little to find the box to add your canonical URL.

For Yoast, find and click on the SEO settings. You'll be able to write a canonical tag in the window that appears.

Conducting a Canonical Audit on Your Website

Conducting a canonical audit saves you from getting ignored by Google. So, how can you do it successfully?

Review the Code Manually

Manually reviewing your code is beneficial if you want to check a few pages on your site. Luckily, all browsers permit you to view the source code.

In the source code, find the line “rel=canonical” and look at the information you want. Consider using the CTRL + F shortcut to find the necessary lines quickly.

Use Specialized Tools

If you have more than 20 web pages to check on your site, specialized tools are the way to go. Services such as Semrush and Ahrefs provide the ability to audit canonical tags.

Why Using Canonical Tags Is Important

Canonical tags tell search engines that there is a definitive resource or more relevant page on your site. They also help to resolve issues with duplicate content. It's vital to ensure the correct implementation of the canonical tag to avoid confusing the search engines.

Set up 301 Redirects

A 301 redirect shows a web page has permanently moved from one domain to another.

Simply put, a 301 redirect tells a browser:

“This page has moved permanently. Here's the new location, and there’s no intention of moving it back.”

And the browser responds:

“No problem! I’ll send your user there right now!”

Understanding how 301 redirects work in technical SEO is essential.

How to Set Up a 301 Redirect

Although you can set up a 301 redirect in many ways, the most common method is to edit your website’s .htaccess file. The file is located in your site’s root folder.

If you don’t see the file, it’s either you don’t have a .htaccess file or your domain isn’t running on an Apache webserver.

Only Apache servers use .htaccess.

And since this process is strictly for Apache, use SEO Book’s Server Header Checker.

Put in your site’s URL and click “Check Header.”

You’ll find your site uses Apache in the “Server:” line. Here’s an example below.

How To Redirect an Old Page To a New Page

If you don’t have a .htaccess file, you can create one using TextEdit (Mac) or Notepad (Windows). Just open a new document and save it as .htaccess, ensure you remove the standard .txt file extension.

If there’s already a .htaccess file on your server, download it to your desktop for easy access and editing. Next, place this code in the .htaccess file:

redirect 301 /old/old.htm http://www.you.com/new.htm

If the file already has code lines in it, skip a line, then input the above code. Save the .htaccess file then upload it to your server’s root folder. You can test the action by typing in the old page address. You should be taken to the new location.

How To Redirect an Old Domain To a New Domain

While you can redirect an old domain to a new one with direct techniques, the code below is just as helpful:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^domain.com$ [OR] RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.domain.com$ RewriteRule ^home\\. html http://www.domain.com/ [R=301,L] RewriteRule ^about\\.

Ensure you save and test it before implementing it on your site.

How to Redirect Non-www URLs to www URLs

To redirect all requests to a www URL, you can insert the following lines under RewriteEngine On:

You’ll have yourdomain.com/page1.

You can follow the same format if you want all requests to go to a non-www URL. Just insert these codes at the beginning of your site’s .htaccess file:

So, you’ll have www.yourdomain.com/page1.

How To Redirect From HTTP To HTTPS

If you’re redirecting your entire domain from HTTP to HTTPS, you can add these lines at the beginning of your site’s .htaccess file:

If you’re redirecting a specific domain, you can add these lines:

If you’re redirecting a specific folder, insert these lines:

Note: Replace “yourdomain” and /folder with the actual domain and folder name wherever necessary.

Luckily, you don’t have to be technically inclined to handle these redirections. SEO tools and plugins, like Rank Math, can help.

Why Using 301 Redirects Is Important

If you redirect yourdomain.com/page2 to yourdomain.com/page3, the redirected page should retain the originating page’s “power.” With that power in your back pocket, 301 redirects become useful for boosting your site’s organic traffic.

Check for and Fix Broken Links

If your site’s link doesn't work, it can ruin all of your hard work. Broken links on your website will devalue your SEO efforts and create a bad experience for your users.

How to Find Broken Links

Thanks to technological advancements, there are several tools you can use to find broken links, whether internal or external. And many of them are free.

SEMrush Site Audit Tool

Open the SEMrush site audit tool and enter your site’s URL in the search box.

Click Start Audit. It’ll prompt you to sign in to your account. Enter your password and email.

You can choose the page limit and the crawl source. Audits for 100 pages and below comes free of charge. If you wish to audit more pages, you’ll have to use a paid plan.

Click Start Site Audit. You’ll see the audit running. Give it some time.

You’ll receive a report like this when it completes the audit.

Click on that card to get the full report.

Click on Issues > Categories> Links.

You’ll get a purview of any issues with links, including broken links.

By now, you’d probably notice that you can use this site audit tool to find crawl errors and any other issues that your website might have.

How To Fix Broken Links

Once you’ve identified your site’s broken links, you can fix them by following these directions.

Fix Any Simple Errors or Typos

Sometimes, broken links are caused by simple errors and typos. An example is if you typed “http://www.yoursite.com/about-us” instead of typing “www.yoursite.com/aboutus,” when writing a page.

For errors like these, you can fix them first as they’ll only take a few seconds. They may also eliminate a considerable part of your website’s broken links.

Set Up Redirects in the Content Management System (CMS)

If your site underwent a redesign, its URL might become deleted or changed, and all the links that used to direct users to that page will lead to a 404.

The best way to fix this issue is to set up redirects. To do this, you should:

  • Go to Administration > find Site building > URL redirects,
  • Click the “Add redirect” option,
  • Fill the “From” and “To” blanks by copying and pasting from the final Broken Link Redirect Report,
  • Select “301 Moved Permanently” in the drop-down Redirect Type menu, and
  • Click “Create new redirect.

You can repeat the process to redirect all the broken links and update the Broken Link Redirect Report.

Why Finding and Fixing Broken Links Is Important

When broken links are neither found nor fixed, your users become frustrated. These links also harm your credibility as an authority.

Ultimately, broken links will cause users to spend less time on your site. This action will prompt search engines to assume that your website isn’t providing a good user experience. If the issue persists, search engines will rank your content lower on the SERPs.

Check for Duplicate Web Pages or Content

Duplicate content or pages are items that appear on more than one website. If you publish your content in more than a place, that’s duplicate content. If you post somebody else’s content on your site or republish yours on their site, you’ll duplicate content issues.

The existence of duplicate content makes it difficult for search engines to determine which one is more relevant to a search engine query. If search engines can’t figure it out, they may exclude all those duplicate contents from the SERP.

How To Check for Duplicate Content

You can use duplicate content checkers to ensure your material is seen as the original. Luckily, you have some resources to help with this.

The Rel=Canonical <Link> Tag

These tags can tell search engines which URL should be used as the original copy of a website. Thus, addressing any duplicate content uncertainty from the search engine’s standpoint.

301 redirects

301 redirects provide a quick and search engine-friendly method of sending users to the correct URL when a duplicate page needs to be deleted.

The “Noindex” Meta Tags

These tags tell search engines not to index individual pages, which might benefit you in the long run.

Google’s URL Parameters Tool

Google’s URL Parameters tool informs Google not to crawl pages with specific parameters. The parameters tool makes it easy for Google to know that your duplicated content is deliberate. Hence, it shouldn’t be considered for SEO purposes.

An alternative route would be to use online resources to check for duplicate content. Some include:

  • Copyscape
  • Plagspotter
  • Siteliner
  • Duplichecker
  • Smallseotools

Why Checking For Duplicate Content or Pages Is Important

You suffer rankings and traffic losses when duplicate content is present. Creating unique and original content then means that you can deliver a superior user experience. It also means that search engines aren’t forced to choose between multiple pages with the same content.

Fix Server Errors

A server error is like the web’s version of a blue screen. This means that a variety of unclear reasons could cause the error.

So, what are these errors, and how can you fix them?

500 HTTP Error (Internal Server Error)

Because this server error is a collective status code for server errors, it’s impossible to determine what the error is at first glance. All the user knows is that the server has encountered and reported an unexpected error.

The actual error could range from invalid ownership, wrong .htaccess file, PHP timeout, and invalid permissions, amongst others.

How to Fix a 500 HTTP Error

If there's an internal error, the first thing to do is, check the error files.

  • Apache users can find this log at /Applications/MAMP/logs/apache_error_log
  • Linux servers keep error messages at /var/log/httpd/error_log.

You can reload your site to see how an error log was created. This will help you find the error source quickly.

Also, consider previously made changes. Sometimes you might program those changes incorrectly.

If there's no error message in the error logs, then you should troubleshoot index files. To start this, open the file manager and choose the containing folder of your domain. Keep your eyes open for any files besides index.php, index.html, or default.html.

If other files are visible, you can temporarily rename them to avoid recognizing them as the index files. If this fixes the issue, you should move the additional index file(s) elsewhere. However, if it doesn't, you need to check the .htaccess file.

Most 500 Internal Server Errors occur because of poorly configured .htaccess files. To access this file, check the public_html folder of your file manager. If you can’t find it at first glance, check for a “show hidden files” option and click it.

Once there, rename it to something like .htaccess_currentdate. That action disables the current .htaccess, and then you can create a new default one.

To create a new default .htaccess file, click on New File from the main File Manager toolbar (should be on the far left-hand side). Name the new file .htaccess.

Then open the code editor and add the following lines:

Save changes.

503 HTTP Error (Service Unavailable Error)

This error indicates that a server is temporarily unable to handle the request. Common reasons for this are that a server is either undergoing maintenance or is overloaded.

In rare cases, an incorrect DNS server configuration may result in an HTTP 503 error message.

Some HTTP 503 error message variants include:

  • Status code HTTP Error 503
  • HTTP 503
  • HTTP Error 503
  • HTTP Error 503 The service is unavailable
  • Error 503 Service Unavailable

How to fix a 503 HTTP Error

Let’s explore some ways that you can fix this error quickly.

Why Fixing Server Errors Is Important

Whether your web pages are loading slowly or your site has crashed, server errors can damage your authority.

If your users can’t access your site, they’ll quickly move to your competitors’ sites, leaving you with a revenue loss.

Craft Interesting 404 pages

Your 404 page is a landing page no one wants to get on. But if you do your job well, your users wouldn’t mind landing on it. Creative 404 pages wield a significant influence on how a customer perceives a brand.

If users would land there anyway, why not make the most out of it?

What an Interesting 404 Page Should Include

Although what your 404 page looks like is dependent on what your brand is, there’s a need to ensure that you include these elements when designing one.

  • An Error Message: Your user needs to know that they’ve landed on an error page
  • Brand’s Look and Feel: Even though it’s an error page, it should match what your brand represents
  • A Funny Anecdote: If you can, you should include a funny anecdote – maybe a joke or witty saying.
  • Link(s) To Your Best Content: Adding three or four links to some great content on your site will lead visitors to something they might find interesting
  • A Call to Action: Since the 404 page serves as a landing page, you should include a call of action – a download or signup button, or even a search bar

Whatever you decide on, ensure that your message on the error page is simple, sharp, and straight to the point.

Why Crafting an Interesting 404 Page Is Important

By building a personalized 404 page, you’re giving your visitors a superior user experience. For example, when a user finds helpful links on the landing page, they have a way of the error page.

So, instead of leaving your site altogether, users will click on the provided links or find what they want through the search box. In other words, people spend more time on your site.

Manage Your Links

Google puts a lot of weight on links. It’s one of the top search ranking factors. So pay attention to it.

How to Use Links

Before we address how you can use this powerful tool to your advantage, let’s look at the types of links: nofollow and dofollow.

While dofollow links tell search engines to pass ranking power from a website to the target page, nofollow links don’t.

In short, nofollow links instruct search engines not to follow specific links. Since all links are dofollow by default, you need to create a nofollow link. For this, you need to add the rel=“nofollow” tag inside your code.

If a default dofollow link looks like this:

<a href=”http://yourdomain.com”> marketing</a>

A nofollow link that includes the rel=“nofollow” attribute should look like this:

<a href=”http://yourdomain.com rel=“nofollow”> marketing</a>

You should use the nofollow link if you don't want to lose your credibility, or your site is filled with “user-generated content.”

You can use most SEO tools like Yoast and Rank Math to manage your dofollow and no-follow settings to other sites. Alternatively, if you use WordPress, use a dedicated tool like WP External Links to manage your links.

Why Winning Backlinks Is Important

When sites link to you, it increases your popularity and authority with search engines, boosts value, and encourages more backlinks. Plus, a study showed a positive relationship between a page or site’s backlinks and its rankings in the search engine result pages.

Create an Ideal Header (H1)

Although many SEO trends have come and gone, H1s have remained significant. The fundamental improvement of your site's H1 tags shows an average of nine percent increase in traffic.

H1 is an HTML tag that implies the first heading on a page. A typical H1 tag looks like this:

<h1> the name of your page or post </h1>.

Tips For Creating an Ideal H1

The following tips will help you in creating captivating H1 s for your content.

The H1 Should Describe the Content’s Subject and its Purpose

Since this tag is for the main title, it should reflect the content’s purpose. This makes it easy for search engines to find it while helping users understand what information to expect and how interesting or useful it’ll be.

The H1 Tag Should Contain the Same Idea as the Title Tag

Although they’re not the same, the H1 and title tag should contain the same idea. In some instances, the H1 can be longer and broader than the title tag. More details can be found below.

The H1 Tag Should Include Keywords

Using focus keywords is one of the most implemented SEO practices. For maximum results, you should use the same keywords in the H1 and the title tag. Although you can use more keywords, it’s essential for you not to oversaturate them.

Get the Right Length for the H1

Finding the perfect length for your header tag is both a science and an art. If it’s too short, it will seem generic. If it’s too long, you’ll lose your user’s interest quickly.

SEO experts recommend that H1 s should be between 30 to 60 characters.

The H1 Tag Should Be User-Centric

Since you want to keep users interested in your site, focus on the user’s reason for finding that content.

Use One H1 Tag on the Page

An SEO H1 Tag should be used so sparingly that there’s only one H1 tag in your HTML code. Why?

There’s no benefit to having multiple H1 tags per page. Also, having more than one H1 per page can confuse search engines and your users.

If you want to confirm that your H1 tags are optimized, you can use an H tag checker to scan your content. After this, you’ll get a list of problematic URLs and tips on how to fix them.

Why Creating an H1 Title Is Important

A well-crafted H1 tag sets the tone for your content and captures your users’ attention. Your H1 title is vital to your SEO success.

A study discovered that the page title tag and website headings, especially the H1 s, play crucial roles in search engines’ organic rankings.

Create Search Engine Friendly Page Title Tags

Page title tags are one of the cornerstones of an SEO strategy. For some SEO experts, title tags are the next most important on-page ranking factor for SEO, after content.

Why?

The title is your site or page’s message to the world. It attracts a consumer’s attention and even prompts them to click on your site when it appears in the search results.

How to Create a Search Engine Friendly Title Tag

You can get closer to the number one spot on the search results page with an optimized title tag.

So, how do you create one?

Before you can create a search engine friendly title, you need to write one. To this end, you should craft a title tag that’s unique, creative, straightforward, and reflective of your products or services.

This title tag should contain your focus or main keyword(s). If it’s possible, your title tag should start with the focus keywords.

Once the title tag is written, you’ll need to set it as your site or page title. The platform you use determines how you handle this. If you use WordPress, you’ll have no problem setting it up.

However, you might have some issues if you use a different content management system or host.

Creating a Title Tag on WordPress

All you need to create a title tag here is the Yoast SEO plugin. But if you don’t have it installed, go to Plugins > Add New >

Type “Yoast” > look for “Yoast SEO” > click “Install Now” > click “Activate.

Now that the plugin is set up, you can edit the title to generate a title tag for a post or page by navigating to that content, then opening the editor.

Below the text field, there’s a Yoast box where you can click on “Edit Snippet.

You’ll find a placeholder in the SEO title box; Title, Page, Separator, Site title.

Delete the placeholders and enter your optimized title.

You can return to this section at any time to edit this SEO title.

Creating a Title Tag on a Non-CMS Hosted Site

If your website isn’t hosted on a CMS, you can create your title tags by editing your HTML. First, you should access the HTML for your page.

It’s recommended that you ask your hosting service how to do this. Once you’ve accessed the editable HTML, ensure you’re between the <head> tags.

There might be an additional code, but that’s nothing to worry about. To create the title, use <title> tags.

For example:

<head>

<title> your domain title – your company</title>

</head>

Save the code.

Creating a Title Tag Without WordPress or a Custom Site

If you fall under this category, it means your web host has a different setup, or you have a unique CMS. Reach your web host or CMS provider to guide you on accessing your site’s HTML so you can edit your page title tags.

Why Having an Optimized Title Tag Is Important

The first reason for a title tag’s impotence is that both search engines and humans will see it as a useful page. Without an optimized title tag, search engines might determine that your page isn’t good enough, and users might skip over it.

Also, title tags are what users will see if your page is shared on social media. Simply put, an optimized title tag means maximum visibility, while an inefficient title tag will sink your page.

Create the Right Meta Description

A meta description is the part of the HTML that gives a short overview of your website. It’s the short snippet that you see in Google's organic search results under the title of a site in the SERP.

Meta descriptions invite clicks from searchers. Hence they influence your rankings indirectly.

Let’s say you go to type “hairstyle inspiration” into a search engine; it’ll lead you to the SERP. Here, you’ll find several organic search results.

While the blue words at the top are the title tags, the description below is the meta description.

How To Write a Great Meta Description

If you want to attract more consumers, the following steps will help you.

Character Count

Although there’s no such thing as the right length, you should ensure that your meta description is short, unique, and creative at the same time.

If you check Google’s search results, you’ll mostly find meta descriptions between 120 to 156 characters.

Make it Actionable

You should make your description active, motivating, and actionable. A good meta description should directly address your consumers so they know what they’re up for if they click on the link.

Use Keywords

Without oversaturating it, you should use your focus keywords. If a query’s search keyword matches a part of the text in your meta description, search engines will be more inclined to highlight it in the search results.

Be Specific

Let’s assume you have a product for tech-savvy consumers. An excellent trick would be to focus on the technical specifications of the product.

You can include details about the stock keeping unit, manufacturer, and price. If a visitor is looking for that particular product, there’s a high chance; they’ll click on your link.

Let Your Meta Description Match Its Content

If you try to use clickbait to get users to your site, Google will find out. You might even be penalized for it. Besides that, you might see an increase in people clicking away from your site if the meta description doesn’t match its content.

How To Create a Meta Description

If you’re on WordPress and you use Yoast SEO, adding a meta description is easy. Simply click the “Edit snippet” button to open the editor. There, you’ll find input fields for editing the SEO title, the slug, and the meta description.

Once you start typing in the meta description section, the snippet preview at the top of the snippet editor will immediately show your new text. Below the input field, there is a bar that changes color depending on your progress.

It’s orange when you start typing, it becomes green when you’ve got enough information, and turns orange again when you’ve added too much text.

Why a Meta Description Is Important

A meta description is relevant because it helps convince people to click on your organic result listings link.

Get an SSL Certificate

A security sockets layer is a type of encryption technology that makes data that is transferred between users and a website unreadable. It prevents malicious third parties from intercepting a user’s data or information.

An SSL certificate is a visual indicator that users can trust your site, especially if you have features for:

  • Logins
  • Forms that ask for personal data
  • Credit or debit card transactions

How to Get an SSL Certificate

First, you should decide what type of certificate you need. You can choose from:

  • Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificate: Although they’re the most expensive SSL certificate to obtain, they’re valuable. They’ll show the business name and country, the padlock, and HTTPS.
  • Organization Validated (OV SSL) Certificate: The OV SSL certificate verifies your organization and domain name’s authenticity. It offers a medium level of encryption and can be obtained in two steps.
  • Domain Validation (DV) Certificate: You only need a few company documents to apply for this certificate.
  • Wildcard SSL Certificates: This certificate falls into the “domain and subdomain number” category. If you purchase a certificate for one domain, you can use it for subdomains.
  • Unified Communications (UCC) SSL Certificate: Also known as Multi-domain SSL certificates, UCCs permit multiple domain names to appear on the same certificate.
  • Single Domain SSL Certificate: This certificate protects just a domain.

Another factor to consider is a certificate’s price. You can get a free SSL certificate or pay a monthly fee to obtain a custom certificate.

Next, you should consider the validity period of an SSL certificate. Although most standard SSL certificates are automatically available for one to two years, you can look at other longer-term options if that’s what you want.

How to Tell If Your Site Has SSL

When users visit your website, they can tell if you have SSL with a few distinct pointers.

  • Your URL says, “https://” instead of “http://.”
  • You have a padlock icon in your address bar.
  • Your certificate is valid.

If you want to confirm the third pointer, you can open Chrome, go to View > Developer > Developer Tools > Security tab.

Clicking the View Certificate button will give you more information about the SSL certificate, including its specific validity period.

An alternative would be to use online sites, like httpcs.com, to confirm a certificate’s validity.

Why Having SSL Is Important

All websites need to prioritize security. And if you don’t think it’s necessary or that important, you’re mistaken.

Recent research discovered that 85 percent of consumers avoid shopping on unsecured websites. Also, Google Webmaster Trends Analysts revealed that they include SSL presence in Google's search ranking algorithm.

Detect Mixed Content and Avoid Blocking

Mixed content occurs when the original HTML is downloaded over a secure HTTPS connection other contents like stylesheets, images, and videos, are downloaded over an insecure HTTP connection.

How To Check for Mixed Content

To root out your mixed content, you’ll need an SSL mixed content checker. The SSL checker is a tool that confirms that you've correctly installed an SSL certificate on your site. Some include:

  • Wormly
  • SSL checks and
  • Observatory

How To Remove Mixed Content From Your Site

To ensure your site returns to visibility in search engines and ensure its safety, you should perform the following steps:

  • Install an SSL Certificate: An SSL certificate provides extra security for you and your users. It also allows your site to function through HTTPS.
  • Install a 301 Redirect: Once you’ve updated your site and switched from HTTP to HTTPS, you should consider installing a 301 redirect. If you ignore this step, users may unintentionally use the old, unsafe version of your site or not find you at all.
  • Remove the HTTP hyperlinks: To do this, you can use the Google audit system. To test it, install Chrome Canary and use Lighthouse. Once you’ve have configured the tool, enter these lines to start the audit:
    • lighthouse –mixed-content URL of your website
    • Lighthouse will report the unprotected links on your site that need to be replaced or deleted.

Why Detecting Mixed Content Is Important

Sites with mixed content are more vulnerable to security risks. Also, mixed content can reduce your site’s search ranking, and Chrome might block the site.

If the user attempts unlocking the contents and entering personal data, the browser will re-indicate the potential danger and issue a second warning.

A customer or client — new or old — might just give up on visiting your site. Ultimately, nobody will view an ad or make a purchase.

Optimize Your Website for Mobile Devices

Smartphones quickly moved from pricey, revolutionary technology to a normal part of daily life. Today, it’s estimated that more than 5 billion people have mobile devices, and over half of these connections are smartphones.

What’s more?

Over 50 percent of global website traffic came from mobile devices in the second quarter of 2020. These staggering statistics mean that having a mobile-friendly website isn’t optional anymore.

How To Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly

The following steps can ensure your site works well for your mobile visitors.

Make Your Site Responsive

With responsive design, your site can become mobile-friendly without limiting the information your mobile users can access.

Let People Find Information Easily

Make your site easy to navigate on mobile. If you’re wondering what to put in prominent locations, an excellent place to start is addressing your mobile users’ frequently asked questions.

If you’re uncertain about what your mobile visitors look for on your site, use your analytics to get the data. In Google Analytics, you can add Mobile Traffic as a Segment in the Behavior section. This allows you to see how mobile visitors interact with your website.

Avoid Text-Blocking Ads and Pop-Ups

If you want mobile visitors to have a positive user experience, consider not using text-blocking ads and pop-ups. If they’re too important to abandon altogether, consider disabling them for mobile users.

Alternatively, you can tweak it up, so a pop-up only appears when a mobile user scrolls to the page’s bottom.

Simplify Your Web Design

Consider using and sticking to a minimalist design that makes it easy for mobile users to find their way around. By decluttering the web pages, your site will load faster.

Avoid Using Flash

Using flash on your site can slow down a page’s load time. Since Android and iOS devices don’t support flash, your mobile users will be left out when you choose to build a website that depends on flash animation.

Run Mobile Tests Regularly

You can occasionally browse your site via a mobile phone or tablet. By doing this, you’ll see if there’s anything that needs to be scrapped or tweaked.

The faster you notice your site’s problems, the sooner you can update it to provide a seamless mobile-friendly experience.

You can check if your site is genuinely mobile-friendly on the search console.

Why a Mobile-Friendly Site Is Important

With a mobile-friendly site, your users can easily access and share your content online. It’s also a free way to rank better on search engines.

Improve Your Page Loading Speed

Page load time is the average period it takes for content on your site to load. Think your page loading speed doesn’t matter?

Think again. Forty percent of users abandon a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. Also, a one-second delay in page response can result in a seven percent reduction in conversions.

YouTube video

How To Improve Your Page Loading Speed

Test your site speed with PageSpeed Insights. And then use the recommendations to improve your site speed.

google page speed insights semrush

You can improve your page loading speed with the following steps.

Enable Compression

To reduce HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files larger than 150 bytes, use Gzip — a software app for file compression.

While you shouldn’t use gzip on image files, you can compress them in a Photoshop program. Using Photoshop will allow you to maintain control over the image’s quality.

Minify and Combine Files

By removing spaces, commas, and other irrelevant characters, you can increase your page speed. You should also remove unused code, code comments, and formatting.

Combining files is easy. If your site runs multiple JavaScript and CSS files, you can combine them into one. You can use WordPress plugins like WP Rocket to hasten the process. Alternatively, you can use Google’s recommended tools, UglifyJS, and CSSNano.

Reduce Page Redirects

Every time a page redirects to a different one, your user has to wait for the HTTP request-response cycle to finish. If your mobile redirect pattern looks like this: “domain.com -> www.yourdomain.com -> m.domain.com -> m.domain.com/home,” each of those two extra redirects slows your page down.

Use a Content Distribution Network

A content distribution network (CDNs) is a network of servers that distribute the load of delivering content. Using a CDN provides a faster loading speed of your website. They also prevent site crashes in case of traffic surges.

Why Improving Your Page Speed Is Important

Having a page that loads fast is an indicator of your site’s overall user experience. In other words, if your pages load fast, they’ll deliver content faster and, ultimately, satisfy your users’ needs quicker.

Build a User-Friendly Website

Before the term “user-friendly” was coined, website developers and users had to describe the features that made a website easy to use. Meanwhile, a poorly designed website was described as one that didn’t meet user expectations.

With so many impressive web design and growth trends, landing on a so-so website is frustrating. If your website makes it hard for users to find what they are searching for, is loaded with broken links, or takes too long to load, it shouldn't exist.

Thus, keeping your users on and encouraging them to return to your site means investing in a user-friendly design.

How To Build a User-Friendly Site

To effectively build a site that’s user friendly, you should:

  • Keep navigation simple
  • Make your pages load faster
  • Make your content easy to understand
  • Include a clear call to action(s)
  • Combine visual aids and text for clarity
  • Make your content shareable
  • Remember mobile users

Why Building a User-Friendly Site Is Important

A user-friendly website will boost your site’s traffic. Eighty-eight percent of Americans have unpleasant feelings about brands with poorly performing websites and mobile apps.

Additionally, the more user-friendly your site is, the more confidence you’ll inspire in the consumers who use it.

Optimize Images for SEO

Humans process images better than text. So an image-rich content will engage your users better and help them remember it for longer.

In practice, optimizing images means you’ll deliver it in the right image format, dimension, size, and resolution while maintaining the smallest size possible.

How To Optimize Images for SEO

You can enjoy the benefits of optimized images with the tips below.

Find Images That Match Your Content

While using original photos are better than stock images, it’s more important to use relevant ones. For example, if you’re writing on your speed dating experience, don’t use other people’s speed dating images.

You can find free and useful images on Unsplash, Flickr, and Pixabay websites.

unsplash homepage

Pick Fitting File Names for Your Images

Just like the above point, saving your images with fitting names is crucial. If you’re creating content about the Eiffel Tower and using a photo showing a sunset in Paris, the file name shouldn’t be DSC5672.jpg.

A fitting filename would be eiffel-tower-paris-sunset.jpg, ensuring the main subject of the photo (and your content) is at the beginning of the filename.

Use the Right Image Format

Although there’s no right format for images, it’s recommended that you:

  • Use JPEG for large pictures or illustrations,
  • Use PNG if you want to preserve your image’s background transparency,
  • Use WebP for its high-quality results with smaller file sizes, or
  • use SVG for icons and logos.

Use Alternate Tags

Alternate tags help search engine bots to index your image content. A reasonable alt tag provides context while helping visually impaired users.

Add Captions

Although image captions may not directly impact SEO, they are visible on your web page. And their presence can add to your visitors’ experience.

Why Optimizing Image for SEO Is Important

If used correctly, images help readers understand your article better. Plus, images with related text most likely rank better for the keyword it’s optimized for.

Wrapping It Up

Technical SEO is an ongoing process, and it would be impossible to include all steps in one guide. That said, if you tackle all the items above, you’ll be well on your way to higher search engine rankings.

You’ll also be ahead of your competition — which is all that matters. So, get started! Good luck.