At Hook Agency, we’re a bunch of SEO nerds. We live it, breathe it, know it, love it. And today, we’re helping our fellow nerd, Technical Ted, learn all there is to know about Technical SEO Basics. By the end of this guide, Ted will go from geek to chic and join the ranks of the rest of us SEO nerds. Come along!
Table of Contents
First Things First: Ask the Experts.
When it comes to learning about SEO basics, what better place to go than to the ones who know it best? Ted asked a few of our favorite SEO moguls what they think about technical SEO in 2021. Here’s what they had to say:
Nick LeRoy, SEO For Lunch
“I believe technical SEO will continue to be incredibly important in 2021+. Without a solid foundation, it will be an uphill battle to scale your organic success.
I believe the areas of technical SEO that will continue to be prioritized will (and should) be around user experience. For instance, core web vitals (site speed) will be factored into ranking factors this year.
Another area I see continuing to be focused on is structured data. In a world where Google is relying on more and more authority/expertise signals, I believe structured data is one way to mark up your site to further demonstrate the relationship between the site and its content creators who are authoritative within their niche.”
Kevin Indig, Shopify
“The importance of technical SEO is growing with the complexity of SEO and search engines. A technical foundation is more than just a better experience for users. It’s a strong signal that your site values search engines’ resources, that it’s groomed! Technical SEO hygiene in itself can be a quality signal and give your site a competitive edge over others.”
“Technical SEO in 2021 will look a lot like technical SEO in 2020, with the biggest and most obvious change being the release of Core Web Vitals. That said, optimizing for good usability and page speed are tactics that should have been part of one’s SEO strategy in the years leading up to this update, so the biggest change here will the ability to measure performance specifically tied to these 3 new metrics. Google also continues to expand our access to various data sources, such as the addition of Google News data in Search Console, along with additional reporting related to Google Discover and Web Stories. It’s worth keeping an eye on these changes and see if they extend to other areas of GSC, such as the coverage report, because more data can help us to make better decisions related to technical SEO.”
Patrick Stox, Ahrefs
“As Google and Chrome+other browsers solve/implement more things for website owners, parts of technical SEO and development will be less important to actually get right, and the field will be more even.”
Griffin Roer, Uproer
Andrew Shotland, Local SEO Guide
“Technical SEO is table stakes for any business with a complex website.
Spicy take—Having control over the SEO engineering budget is the #1 ranking factor.”
Roxana Stingu, Alamy
“There’s always been a focus on technical SEO and this just continues to grow in importance with the introduction of Page Experience as a ranking signal. You shouldn’t invest all your time into coming up with strategies to bring in more traffic until you can ensure a decent user experience level to your already existing traffic. As my mom would say, don’t build a new roof on a crumbling house.”
What Is Technical SEO & Why Does It Matter?
When Ted first wanted to learn more about technical SEO, he headed straight to Google and found this simple definition: Technical SEO is what tells Google, or other search engines, that your website has authority and value. That sounds simple enough, he thought, but why does it matter?
Why do so many businesses rely on SEO strategy to ensure their business goes from zero to hero on Google? Well, there’s a lot to it, but here’s what we told him: Technical SEO is improving and optimizing elements ON your website, like making it faster, secure, and optimized for mobile. It’s more than just making Google and other search engines happy, but your users, too!
Laying the Foundation for Technical SEO Best Practices
Ted is starting to understand why technical SEO is so important, but how do you implement it? First, you lay the groundwork and begin by tending to your website. If your website is running slow, lacks security against spam, and doesn’t work for mobile—well, you’re going to have a hard time moving forward. These steps are what lay the foundation for the rest of the SEO work we do. And we all know that without a steady foundation, things crumble. Here’s what to focus on first:
Improving Site Speed
You’re impatient. We’re impatient. Hell, everyone is impatient!
How many times have you clicked on a website that then takes forever to load, resulting in you backing out and finding something that can match your loft expectations for speed? I’d venture to guess that is a fairly common occurrence. Here’s why.
According to Loadstorm and Econsultancy, as reported by Website Builder Expert, 1 in 4 visitors of a website will abandon it if it takes longer than 4 seconds to load.
Once more, 64% of online retail shoppers will shop elsewhere if they have a bad experience. Site speed is one of the biggest causes of a poor experience, with each second a site is delayed reducing the user’s satisfaction by 16%.
But here’s the real kicker—the average website takes anywhere from 6-10 seconds to load. That means our expectations aren’t even grounded in reality!
The solution: create an elaborate and compelling campaign that encourages people to be more patient when it comes to loading times.
Just kidding. The real solution is to make your website faster and in line with your user’s (somewhat absurdly) high expectations. It’ll take a little work, but reaching that 4-second nirvana is indeed possible.
But before you can increase your website’s speed, you first need to test it to see how much improvement needs to be made.
How to Test Your Site’s Speed
There are a few different ways you can go about testing your website’s speed. The easiest way to do this is to simply run it through a website speed tester. There are A LOT of different options available, but here are some of the best to choose from:
It’s important to understand that you can’t rely on how fast your website loads for you on your personal computer. You have to test it from different locations around the country—or even the world if your customers or clients reside there. These tools will all give you reliable readings on how fast your website for all your customers, regardless of where they are located.
The best way to improve your site speed is to boost your website with encouraging statements like, “You can do it!”, “I believe in you!”, and “If you don’t break the 4-second threshold I’ll delete you from existence!” (We here at Hook believe fear is a great motivator).
If that doesn’t work, here are some other ways you can help speed up your site:
Minimize HTTP requests – Roughly 80% of a web page’s load time is spent downloading different parts of the page (images, scripts, style sheets, etc). An HTTP request must be made for each of those elements. The more stuff you get on your pages, the longer it’ll take to load. Google Chrome allows you to look at how many HTTP requests your site has with their ‘Developer Tools’. Simply right-click on the page you want analysis, go to “inspect,” and then click “network.” You’ll be able to see all the elements and their subsequent load time. If you see any elements that aren’t needed and are taking a seriously long time to load, get rid of them.
Minify and Combine Files – In addition to deleted elements and files that are taking a long time to load, you can also combine them by minifying them. Minifying a file involves removing any formatting that isn’t necessary, as well as extra white space and code that isn’t needed. Plugins like WP Rocket make this process easy.
Run a Compression Audit – The smaller your files, the better your website will perform. However, you want to be careful that compressing your files doesn’t hinder the quality of your site as well. Using a tool like GIDNetwork, you can run a compression audit. It’ll tell you the uncompressed size of your page, as well as how much you can potentially reduce the page’s size by compressing files.
The Three S’s: SSL, Security, and SEO
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is the standard technology for keeping an internet connection secure on a website. It protects sensitive data as it is sent and received between two systems. This prevents criminals and hackers from getting to any of that sensitive information like payment info and personal details.
SSL safeguards your website and keeps people’s information safe—it is standard practice at this point. A quick way to tell that a website is secure if it has “HTTPS” in the link. This is a secure version of HTTP that is SSL authenticated.
Why Does it Matter?
The main reason SSL security is so important is that it keeps sensitive data safe. Data is sent from computer to computer through the internet to get to the destination server, and SSL encrypts that data so that the only person receiving it, is the intended user.
Every day we go to the internet and search for things tied to our personal information. We log into our email, we sign in to social media accounts, we make purchases online—all of this sensitive information requires protection to keep it out of the hands of criminals and identity thieves. SSL is critical when doing just about anything online these days.
Do I Need a Firewall?
A firewall safeguards your network from infiltrative malicious software and prevents any unauthorized connections or users from accessing your information. The firewall is constantly monitoring all traffic coming in and out of your network/internet. It will flag any unauthorized computers or networks trying to gain access to yours, and block them.
These protections can be customized to be very extreme, which is safe for medical practices with sensitive patient information, or they can be more lax for smaller businesses or personal computers.
Cyberattacks continue to rise and experts say in 2021 we will see a ransomware attack on businesses every 11 seconds! This is why firewalls and other spam protection are absolutely imperative to protecting not only sensitive data but keeping networks safe from hacks and losing information.
Most cyberattacks occur through email phishing which is sending emails to companies that get opened and it acts as a Trojan horse to gain access to your network. Email scammers will use fake email addresses, make fake websites, and basically make everything look legitimate online in a way to get people to give out personal information. Firewalls, specifically email firewalls, are 100% necessary to prevent such cyberattacks as this.
Not that SPAM, Ted! We are talking about the spam that infiltrates your computer network from malicious sites or people from the internet.
SEO spam attacks are very real and very detrimental to your website’s integrity. SEO spam attacks can look like many things that seem legit but are not. For example, something we do in SEO is building out backlinks to reputable websites across the internet. These links bring people back to your website from relevant websites or content elsewhere and they boost your ranking as a reputable website. SEO backlinks are one area that is especially vulnerable to be utilized in an SEO spam attack.
Spammers will gain access to your site and start applying redirects from your website to bring people to malicious softwares or sites that will steal their information. Not only is this absolutely terrible for your new or existing customers who fall victim to the malicious redirects, but it can compromise your entire website and your business’s reputation.
Some ways to boost spam prevention on your website include:
- Updating all plugins and softwares. Outdated systems leave themselves vulnerable to weak areas that allow these cybercriminals to get in.
- Apply CAPTCHA to your website. You know the whole “count the stop signs to prove you’re not a robot”. We get a good laugh out of some of the CAPTCHA prompts we’ve seen, but it is incredibly good at keeping out bots and automated hacks from your website.
- Monitor and track all of your backlink profiles and activity. If you see any backlinks associated with your website that you did not do yourself, or that seem sketchy, remove those.
- Implement SSL and firewalls, as we’ve mentioned.
How to Secure Your URL
After you’ve purchased and installed your SSL certificate, and applied the proper firewall and spam prevention measures to your website, there are a few other key factors to secure your URL.
- Install anti-malware software.
- Update all software regularly and on time.
- Implement manual approval for all comments on your site.
- Create hard-to-crack passwords for all users.
- If you use LastPass or other password-keeping software, make sure you use an authenticator to prevent outside users from logging in.
- Run a system backup, and schedule to do one every month or so.
This comprehensive list should provide your website with plenty of security to prevent fraud, spam, and other cyberattacks. You and Technical Ted should be able to rest easy knowing your website is safe from hackers and thieves!
Optimizing Your Site For Mobile
Yes, Ted, you have to optimize for mobile too. But don’t fret. I have a story for you. Grab a blanket and a favorite snack, and get comfy. It’s a good one.
Once, there was a business that didn’t optimize its website for mobile. As a result, they didn’t have as many sales as they wanted.
One day, a wise sage came to them and said, “Fools! Your website is not optimized for mobile! If you do that, you will have many more leads that will then become conversions, and your life will be much more fulfilling, too.”
The business owner, paying heed to the sage’s advice, optimized his site for mobile. He then made over a billion dollars that year, won the lottery, met the girl of his dreams, and did a really cool reverse lay-up in a pick-up game of basketball.
That’s a true story. That business owner is me.*
*Okay, not exactly true, but the point remains—optimizing your website for mobile will make your life much easier.
But, how does optimizing your website for mobile make your life easier? What are the benefits of doing so? Let’s discuss.
Why You Should Optimize Your Website For Mobile
We don’t have to spend much time discussing the why here, as the answer is pretty clear.
According to a Hitwise study, here is a breakdown of the percentage of searches on mobile based on industry:
- Food and Beverage – 72%
- Health – 68%
- Sports – 68%
- News and Media – 64%
- Lifestyle – 62%
- Automotive – 62%
- Retail – 56%
- Travel (non-maps) – 52%
- Real estate/Property – 48%
- Entertainment – 42%
- Banking – 39%
So what’s the takeaway? A significant portion—if not a vast majority—of searches are done on mobile devices. So, if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, your potential customers are going to have a bad user experience. They’ll leave your site and look for another option. A website that isn’t optimized for mobile will also perform poorly in terms of mobile SEO.
So, how does one go about optimizing their site for mobile users? These actions are a good place to start.
Improve Page Speed
Improving page speed is important for not only desktop users but also mobile users. We already outlined how to improve site speed, so we won’t repeat ourselves. Just know that if you want to have a robust mobile presence, your website needs to be quick.
Don’t Use Flash or Pop-Ups
The plugin may not be available on your user’s phone, which means it won’t work for them. For special effects, use HTML5 instead.
In addition, pop-ups can be downright impossible to close out on mobile devices. So don’t use ‘em. Please.
Make Sure Your Site is Actually Usable on Mobile
A poorly designed website on mobile can make anyone look like they have sausage fingers. I have fairly dainty hands myself but have been personally victimized by tiny buttons that are clustered together on the mobile version of a site, making it impossible for me to tap on the one I want. So make sure that the mobile version of your site is actually usable.
Make Sure Your Site is Responsive
One way to ensure that folks can use your site as you intended is by incorporating responsive design. For WordPress sites, this means choosing a theme that has responsive design capabilities or creating your own responsive site. Essentially, responsive design means that regardless of the dimensions of the screen, your website still looks good and is user-friendly.
Optimize Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
There is obviously less space to go around when dealing with a search engine on mobile. For this reason, your title tags and meta descriptions should be concise and to the point to ensure no important information is cut-off.
Mobile-First Indexing: What in Tarnation is it and Why You Should Give a Darn
As digital marketers, we are but humble servants to our overlord: Google. Every decision we make is to appease our great, almighty, and powerful leader. I don’t use the bathroom without first consulting Google. That’s how committed I am to the cause.
For this reason, we always have to be on the lookout for whatever bullshit incredibly innovative shift Google is trying next. One recent shift Google has made is implementing mobile-first indexing. Essentially, this means that when Google crawls your website, it will look first at the mobile version of your site then the desktop. As we discussed earlier, this move makes a lot of sense based on how many searches are conducted via mobile devices.
However, this means that if your site isn’t optimized for mobile, it may get absolutely obliterated on Google’s rankings. I’m talking about a major shellacking. Like what happens to Notre Dame every time they play in the College Football Playoffs.
By following the steps outlined above, you can better prepare yourself for this shift to mobile-first indexing.
For a deep dive into ensuring your pages are indexed, take a look at this guide courtesy of Ahrefs.
Hosting, FTP, & PHP, Oh My.
Technical Ted has a dream of having his own personal website, so he bought his first domain. He tried for www.ted.com, but another Ted beat him to it I guess. Then he started his WordPress account and started using some templates to design his new website to nerd out on all the things he learned about SEO. But a domain and a WordPress design are only half of it. You need hosting!
No, Ted (but we wouldn’t decline an invite).
What the Heck is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is basically where your website lives. If you’ve got the perfect domain, a beautiful website, but it doesn’t have anywhere to live, it’s not going to work. Hosting is where all of the files that comprise your website are going to live. These files are your coding, images, links, design, etc., and without hosting, they will just float around aimlessly, and no one is going to find you.
Basically, every website on the internet lives on a server. Thus, a hosting provider is a company that manages the server where your site is hosted. There are thousands of hosting providers around the world, but when it comes to hosting a WordPress website (our favorite), they recommend a few of the best and brightest.
Awesome WordPress Web Hosting:
What is an FTP (File Transfer Protocol)?
An FTP is like the middle man between your hosting and your CMS (content management system). It is second-tier access to a site’s core files. This means it is a network that copies a file from one host (your network or computer) and transfers it to another via the internet or other network. Your web hosting company will supply you with your FTP, where you will solidify your URL and get a username and password. It’s yet another form of security that allows you a secure way of housing and transferring your files within your network and to other secure networks.
How About PHPs?
A PHP or Hypertext Preprocessor is the connection between the database and the front end of a website that controls what gets pulled from the database and shown on the front end. It’s a general-purpose scripting language that is embedded into an HTML document that makes it interactive. It will enable that HTML to react to user changes and other actions.
Ongoing Technical SEO Elements
As you create content and build out an SEO strategy, you’ll have a few recurring responsibilities on SEO’s technical side. Creating content and adding pages to a site increases visibility and allows for further optimization.
Here are a few things to keep in mind for growing a website:
Meta Titles & Descriptions
The meta title and description often leave the first impression when it comes to online experiences. Therefore, make sure they are searcher-focused and include the page’s keyword.
This isn’t a quick hack that will skyrocket your site to the first page of Google, but it is in line with SEO best practices. Over time, optimizing each meta title on your site will have a compounding impact and is sure to improve results.
Interlinking is one of the most underrated SEO tactics.
Link one blog post or service page to another on your site. It doesn’t even take that much forethought. If you mention something you’ve already written about in a post, throw a link in! If you know the intended keyword of the page you’re linking to, use it in the anchor text.
Inter-linking your content gives more information to search engines. It enables them to pull context and information from other pages on your site while interpreting the page they’re crawling. In the long run, this leads to an increase in rank for important terms.
How you organize a page matters. Proper organization helps readers engage with your content and understand the purpose of a post or page.
For search engines, page structure is a bit more crucial. Multiple h1 tags essentially tell search engines the page has two titles. Every page needs one (and only one) h1 title tag. From there, you can have as many h2, h3, h4 (and so on) tags as your page needs. If you are able, include the keyword (or related keywords) in the headings.
Image alt text
Alternative text (alt-text or alt-tags) is a label for images that helps search engines understand pictures. Since search engines don’t have eyes, it’s up to the author to describe the image.
Search engines like Google use alt text to index images for image searches. Entering alt-text for each image on your site dramatically increases the odds of showing up for an image search.
Ever have pages or posts with nearly duplicate content? Usually, you remove duplicate pages, but in some cases, it makes sense to keep them. This is when setting canonical URLs is important.
A canonical URL tells search engines which post or page is the original. It prevents potential penalties for having duplicate pages, and on large sites can positively impact SEO.
As you add content to a site, you will no doubt have to add redirects. Redirects aren’t inherently bad, but they will cause problems without proper management.
When you change a URL or need to redirect a page, make sure you change or remove every internal link to that page on your site. Building up 301 redirects on your site will cause problems, so it’s important to stay on top of them.
URL & Site Structure
What is a URL?
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. Basically, a URL is the human-readable text of the location of a resource on the internet.
A typical URL consists of a protocol (how a browser should retrieve the information)
A domain name (where the resource lives, usually, a website)
And a path (exact location of the resource)
SEO Friendly URLs
URLs are important in SEO for two main reasons; user experience and rankability in search engines. We’ll touch on these factors as we break down URL’s a bit more.
Use a Flat URL Structure
In general, no page should be farther away from the homepage than 3 or 4 clicks. All of the most important pages should be 1 click away from the homepage. This allows for link juice and authority to move between pages easily and also allows for search engine crawlers to easily crawl and index the site. Here’s an example of a flat site architecture:
Using Category Pages
Using category pages keeps your site organized. Your categories should go from top-level/most important category pages to sub-category pages, then individual pages. If you plan on adding a lot of pages for certain themes, products, services, that is where category pages become super important. If you have a small website, they may not be as crucial. Here’s how this could look:
Home page: example.com
Top-level category page: example.com/services
Sub-category page: example.com/services/roofing
Individual page: example.com/services/roofing/minneapolis
- Pages on a website that fall into very specific product, service, or location categories may want to live in a subfolder. Example – tech.com/cameras/sony, tech.com/cameras/nikon.
- Your URL should consist of the main keywords for the page.
- Keep the URL short and separate words by hyphens, no more than 5 words.
- Be descriptive about what the page is about and easy to read.
Subfolders vs. Subdomains
For best SEO results, it is almost always better to use a subfolder rather than a subdomain. A subdomain looks something like this https://blog.hookagency.com, compared to a subfolder https://hookagency.com/blog. Search engines treat subdomains as a separate entity from your main site. That means any topical authority or link power acquired on your subdomain does not transfer over to your main site.
Subdomains may be useful if what is on your subdomain is completely unrelated to your main site, such as a totally different topic, service, company, etc.
A sitemap is basically a blueprint of your website. This makes it easy for a search engine crawler to know exactly what pages you have and what should be prioritized to be crawled. There are different types of sitemaps including, image, video, news, and mobile. Typically, you’ll just need a basic sitemap. Most SEO plugins like Rank Math and Yoast come with the functionality of creating a sitemap. You’ll get a sitemap URL that will look something like example.com/sitemap_index.xml. Your sitemap should be added to Google Search Console for
Robots.txt is a file that tells search engines certain pages to not crawl. You can use the file to block pages or whole parts of a website that you don’t want to be indexed or seen by search engines. For the most part, smaller websites don’t have to have a robust file, and you can noindex certain pages or resources at the page level with a plugin like Rank Math.
Core Web Vitals
Core web vitals are a set of specific aspects of a website that Google has deemed important to the user experience and announced they will become a ranking factor in May 2021. This measures how your website performs and is shown to users specifically on mobile devices.
Core web vitals are made up 3 main components:
LCP – Largest Contentful Paint
This is basically how fast the elements of a page load. The biggest aspects affecting LCP are images, videos, other media, and text. To get a passing grade, you’ll want everything to load under 2.5 seconds. Here are things you can do to improve LCP:
- Get a fast hosting provider.
- Remove large page elements such as videos.
- Use lazy loading.
- Minify CSS.
CLS – Cumulative Layout Shift
Cumulative layout shift involves how long it takes for all the elements of a page to get to their respective resting places. If things are still moving around while the page is loading, you’re going to get slapped by Google. You want everything to load under .1 second to get a passing score. Here’s how to improve CLS:
- Set specific size attribute dimensions for any media (video, images, infographics, etc.).
- Have a set space for ads to show up.
FID – First Input Delay
The time it takes for a user actually to interact with your page, like click a link or enter an email. A passing score is under 100MS. Here’s how to improve FID:
- Use a cache plugin.
- Remove third-party scripts.
The best places to check your Core Web Vitals are in Google Search Console under Enhancements. Also, you can add the Google Lighthouse Chrome extensions and download a page speed report with Core Web Vitals metrics included.
Top recommended tools/plugins to improve Core Web Vitals:
- NitroPack – all-in-one site speed optimization tool.
- CloudFlare APO – site speed and script optimization.
Schema / Structured Data
Schema markup is code on the backend of a website that helps search engines better understand your content. For example, our blog posts have “article schema”, letting search engines know that this is a blog post other than a service page or event announcement.
The biggest benefit of schema is that it allows your content to be featured at the top of Google in rich snippets. This gives your content higher visibility and click-through rate. Traditionally, schema was added to a website manually using schema.org. Now, many SEO plugins such as Rank Math have schema features that make it super simple and quick to implement many types of schema on any page. There are many schema types, including article, recipe, event, social, location, and many more.
Advanced Tactics For More Complicated Sites
What is a Crawl Budget?
Ummmmmm, no. Please no, Ted.
A crawl budget is how many pages Google will crawl on your site on any given day. Generally, the more pages Google crawls, the better off your site will be. When Google crawls a site, it gives the pages it crawls a chance to rank.
There are a lot of variables that go into determining your crawl budget. The three biggest that you should focus on are:
- The size of your site
- The health of your site
- The number of links to your site
The bigger your site, the more important your crawl budget is. If you have a small budget of around 250 pages per day, but you have over 200,000 pages on your site, it’s going to take a long time for Google to look over every nook and cranny on your site. That means newly published blogs, landing pages, or content that has been reworked might take a long time to rank.
Determining Your Crawl Budget
To find out what your crawl budget is, find out how many pages you have. One way to do this is by checking out the number of URLs in your XML sitemaps; tools like Screaming Frog can also help you count them all up.
Next, you’ll need to head over to Google Search Console. Go to “Legacy Tools” and then “Crawl Stats” and look at the average number of pages crawled per day.
Divide the number of total pages you have by the average crawled per day. The lower the number, the better your crawl budget is. Anywhere from 4 and below is really solid. If you’re in the 10 or high range, it’s time to optimize your crawl budget.
Optimizing Your Crawl Budget
Here are some quick tips for increasing your crawl budget. Keep in mind, it’s really difficult to do so and will take a lot of effort on your part. But, if your crawl budget is weak, it’s worth the time investment.
Reduce the Number of Errors on Your Site – To help boost your crawl budget, make sure all your pages being crawled return one of these two return codes: 200 and 301. In some instances, you’ll have to redirect the page if you notice you have errors.
Block Pages and Content You Don’t Want Crawled – If you have pages or pieces of content that don’t need to be on Google (such as an “about” page), you can block them using robots.txt.
Get More Quality Links to Your Site – Creating content that is link-worthy or creating strategic partnerships with your suppliers, vendors, and other companies in your industry tells Google your site is authoritative and that it should crawl more pages.
What is a Hreflang and Why does it Matter?
By using hreflang tags, you can create different language URLs for your website. So, if you have a website that needs to have a global reach because your customers reside all over the world, hreflang tags are a must.
These tags allow users to be directed to a version of your website that is written in their language. There are two ways to add hreflang tags to your website.
First, you can add it to your HTML link element in the header. Here is an example of what that would look like for a fake website if you were trying to ensure users in Spain were directed to the Spanish version of your site. For this example, I will simply pick a random website name. Again, this is totally random.
<title>Jake Gyllenhaul Fan Club</title>
<Meta name=”description” content=”sample description”/>
<link rel=”alternate” href=”https//en.jakegyllenhaulfanclub.com” hreflang=”en”/>
<link rel=”alternate” href=”https//es.jakegyllenhaulfanclub.com” hreflang=”es”/>
Notice how it is also linked to the English version of your site too. That is required for both methods of adding hreflang tags.
The other way to add hreflang tags is through your sitemap.
Just submit your sitemap in its different language versions. Here is what that will look like:
If you need a little more clarification on how hreflang tags work, watch this great video courtesy of Day Translations Inc.
Technical SEO Checklist
When we start working with a client, we tackle a long list of technical SEO edits right out of the gate. Sometimes they have a few, and that’s awesome, but other times we need to check every area of technical SEO to ensure they’ve got everything they need. It’s always very helpful for business owners to know what this entails, so for those of you looking for a simple (but actually very long and comprehensive) checklist — here ya go:
☐ Deindex thin & duplicate content
☐ Create a robots.txt file
☐ Install Rank Math SEO (WordPress only)
☐ Set up Google Analytics
☐ Set up Google Search Console
☐ Generate a sitemap & submit it to GSC
☐ Make sure your site is indexed
True Technical SEO
☐ Reduce site speed to 2 seconds or less (Caching & Image Compression)
☐ Make sure your website is optimized for mobile users
☐ Get a secure SSL certificate
☐ Make sure you have a robots.txt
☐ Put your sitemap.xml URL in your robots.txt file
☐ Find & fix any crawl errors
☐ Find & fix any broken links
☐ Find & fix orphaned pages
☐ Ensure proper canonical URLs are set if appropriate.
☐ Add structured data
☐ Add local schema
☐ Ensure compliance with Google Core Web Vitals
☐ Align URL structure with site hierarchy (example.com/blog/diy-seo/)
☐ Run a site audit and check for any outstanding issues
☐ Add custom meta titles & descriptions for each page
☐ Make sure each page as one and only one H1 tag
☐ Include the keyword in meta titles when appropriate
☐ Run a content audit and combine/remove posts (if appropriate)
☐ Add a contact form above the fold to every service page
☐ Ensure web copy is benefit-focused, not focused on your business
☐ Inter-link all related content with each pages intended keyword
☐ Create location-specific service page (eg. Minneapolis SEO Services)
☐ Add alt-text to every image on your site
☐ Include LSI keywords in post & page subheadings
Other SEO Opportunities
☐ Find & target featured snippets
☐ Create FAQs on pages that have the opportunity to get a FAQ Schema Markup
☐ Create Moonshot (or skyscraper) content for important competitive keywords
☐ Create statistics posts as ‘link-bait’
☐ Include videos to make content more engaging & boost dwell time
☐ Create infographics for winning blog content and do linking outreach
SEO Acronyms, Terms, & Definitions
There is a lot of lingo and a lot of acronyms for terms used in SEO—it’s a lot to remember! Thankfully, Technical Ted has this handy-dandy sheet to reference anytime.
The importance of technical SEO shouldn’t be understated. For smaller websites, it lays a foundation for future web performance. For larger sites, it is a crucial ranking factor that business owners can’t afford to ignore.
Scope & essential action items will vary based on your website’s size and the type of site you operate. However, technical SEO basics are crucial for every website that wants to increase its presence on Google.
Optimizing meta titles and descriptions, building a logical page structure, reducing site speed, setting up proper indexation, and removing thin & duplicate content will almost always be your first steps. They aren’t the only critical technical items, but they are the most likely items to get a site off the ground early on.
A lot of these technical elements are manageable for smaller websites. Proportionately it plays a smaller role when considering the overall SEO strategy. Larger sites and businesses may find these technical elements challenging to manage – understandably so. They’re captaining a much bigger ship which gets complicated.
An SEO agency may be a good option if you don’t have internal marketing staff or are looking to increase your visibility on search engines. They’re more than capable of solidifying your site’s Technical SEO and should build a custom strategy to get you on the first page for terms that matter to you.
If you run a small website (1-499 Pages)
At this level, technical SEO will primarily serve as a foundation – not as a primary tool for increasing traffic. Getting the basics down will make it easier for you to rank on Google and position your content strategy for success.
Going along with the SEO checklist mentioned previously, complete all the tasks under ‘Initial Setup.’ Every page should have a unique meta title & description and be appropriately indexed.
If you’re on WordPress, make sure you manage your categories & tags – they’re known to duplicate content, hurting your SEO.
No matter the CMS you’re using, make sure you enable indexation by search engines. Sometimes you have to enable this manually: If you are on WordPress, login to your backend and go settings> reading and make sure the box for ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’ is not checked.
If you run a more extensive website (500+ Pages)
This post’s focus is on technical SEO basics, but you should know that things get a bit more complicated when you operate a more extensive website.
Make sure you run through the full SEO checklist listed above (at least). And prioritize proper site indexation, and clean up thin and duplicate content as these issues will cause severe problems for large websites.
At this size, things like Crawl budget management will play a larger role. The bigger your site, the more critical it is to manage its technical SEO. We strongly recommend getting in touch with an agency to help manage your site and increase its visibility.
Need Help With Your Technical SEO?
We get it, the technical side of SEO isn’t for everyone.
Depending on the size of your site, you may be in over your head. Frankly, learning all of this may not be worth your time if you can afford to hire a professional. Thing is, hiring a dedicated technical SEO specialist is overkill in most cases.
Enter the SEO Agency: get a team of SEO professionals on your side for less than hiring a full-time specialist. They should have your back on keyword strategy, content creation, link building, web edits, and technical SEO.
Unless your company is large enough to afford multiple specialists, you’ll get a larger ROI from partnering with a strategic agency that helps you own your own marketing.
This may be a shameless plug, but we love working with smart contractors that are looking to grow their business on Google.
Watch this quick video to see how savvy businesses save time and hook better leads: