Improve your technical SEO: 10 steps you can take right now
These steps can give your SEO an immediate boost
Technical SEO can be a bit daunting if you're not an expert. So much goes into optimizing a site's architecture and code for search engine optimization, and you'd be forgiven for thinking you have to be a web developer to pull it off.
But even a novice can take some simple steps to help their technical SEO. Here are 10 things you can do right now to give your site a boost.
1. Optimize images
Images affect your page load speed, and site speed is a significant ranking signal. Fortunately, optimizing your images is pretty easy.
The goal is to keep your file sizes small without ending up with a pixelated mess. And the good news is it's not difficult. If you're editing images in Adobe Photoshop, just choose "Save for Web." This option will automatically decrease the file size while allowing you to guard image quality.
There are a couple other steps you can take to optimize images as well. First, make sure you convert images to RGB color format rather than CMYK. Also, make sure you choose the right file type: .jpg for images and .png for graphics. Boom. Images optimized.
2. Use alt text
Search engines are pretty smart, but they haven't gotten to the point that they can identify an image. They only read the text on the page. That means your images need some text to give the search engine spiders a clue on their content.
Alt text is a description of the image you're using. You can define this with an HTML tag, but most content management systems will give you the option to set alt text for an image when you upload it. Use the keywords you're targeting in your content as alt text for your image, and you'll give search engines the clues they need.
3. Get your SSL
Security is important to search engines. They want to know that users' data is safe on your site. That's why they highly prioritize https:// sites over http:// sites.
That added "s" simply means that any data transferred over a site is encrypted. You earn that "s" by adding an SSL certificate.
SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, adds a cryptographic key to your site to encrypt information. You may need different levels of SSL certificates depending on the type of data you're collecting. You can buy SSL certificates, which can be activated through your web hosting platform. They're inexpensive, and they're a significant ranking signal.
4. Add structured data markups
Structured data gives search engines additional details around a web page's content. It's a standardized format written into a site's HTML that tells search engines important information, and gives context for that information. For instance, you might write a blog about how to bake the perfect cheesecake, and include structured data telling search engines the ingredients, the recipe instructions and the nutritional information.
There's plenty of info out there on how to add structured data markups to your pages. The benefit is it provides search engines with rich information about your content, which they serve to searchers in the form of things like answer boxes and Knowledge Graphs.
5. Fix your broken links
Broken links on your site are a source of frustration for users. They lead users to a dead end and don't deliver the information they were looking for. They're similarly frustrating for search engines crawling your site. Search engines know that broken links are a bad user experience, and they can hurt your SEO.
There are a lot of tools out there for checking your broken links. Our favorite is Xenu Link Sleuth. It can scan your site from the homepage down and find every broken and dead link, and you can customize filters for your broken link search.
6. Put your content in order
Your site architecture is important not only for user experience, but for SEO as well. Search engine spiders want to crawl your site and understand how every page relates to every other page, forming a map of your entire site.
Organize your site in a logical flow that's easily navigable from the home page. It makes your site easy to crawl and index, and it sends link juice flowing down from your home page to all the pages below it.
7. Cut down on redirects
A redirect is when you automatically reroute users from one URL to another. It might be because you've moved content from an old URL to a new URL. It might be because you've deleted a page and want to redirect users to a similar page instead.
Redirects don't directly harm your SEO. Google has been clear that when you redirect to a new URL, it will give that page the same authority as the old URL. However, redirects slow down your site. And site speed is a major factor in your rankings.
8. Kill or canonical duplicate content
Let's dispel a myth right away here: Google does not penalize for duplicate content. This particular myth gets repeated over and over in SEO circles, but Google itself has debunked it.
What Google does instead is to filter out duplicate content. This can be a problem if you have a particular page you want to rank for a search term, but Google chooses to filter it out in favor of a page with duplicate content.
You can fix this problem in one of two ways. You can delete duplicate content and redirect to another page, or you can add a "rel=canonical" HTML tag to your content with the URL of the page you want to rank. This tells search engines that you have one canonical or preferred URL for a particular bit of content. It will ignore your duplicate content in favor of the URL you've marked as canonical.
At least, that's how it works in theory. The caveat here is that a canonical tag is really just a suggestion to Google. It doesn't force search engines to consider your preferred URL the canonical source. It merely gently urges them to.
9. Use natural URLs
Search engines use keywords in URLs to help identify relevant content. Creating URLs that are clean and readable has a number of benefits. They're easier for users to read, easier for them to remember and easier for them to share. Readable URLs also get higher clickthroughs in search results, which is a big boost for your SEO.
10. Use Google AMP
Google hasn't come right out and stated that it's using AMP as a ranking signal. However, it's strongly encouraging its adoption. And considering its policy of mobile-first indexing and its use of site speed as a ranking signal, it's fair to say that AMP will play a big role in your SEO.
So how do you transition to AMP if you're not a web developer? The good news is that if your site uses WordPress, there's a plugin available that will automatically convert your pages to AMP. Couldn't be easier.
Bonus Tip: Hire a professional
If you're still uncertain about pulling off the tips above, you might consider hiring a professional SEO expert. They'll have the know-how to do a complete SEO audit of your site, identify any problems and implement solutions that will have you skyrocketing up the search rankings.