What Is Technical SEO? 15 Audit Tasks To Boost Rankings
As the world moves further and further into the digital realm, making your website visible on search engines has become even more of a priority. High rankings often lead to higher profits, and completing key technical SEO tasks is one way to push your website towards the pinnacle of Google’s result pages. But what is technical SEO, exactly? And which are the best technical SEO tasks to boost your rankings?
What is technical SEO?
Technical SEO is a set of processes that help search engines to crawl your website and index its content. They need to be able to find and “understand” every page so that they know whether it’s a good fit for their search results, and where it should be placed for relevant keyword searches. Technical SEO is also a way to improve your site’s speed and usability.
The goal of technical SEO is to make your website more visible for search engines, and to improve its ranking in their search results. The main outcomes of technical SEO are:
- A website with a clear and logical page structure
- A fast website that loads quickly, and responds quickly when used
- A website that is easy to navigate and use, especially for mobile users
- A website with well-structured content that uses the correct meta tags and headings
- A secure website
When these things are achieved, search engines will be able to find all of your website’s pages more easily, “read” and index the content effectively, and if your content is high quality and matches the user’s search intent, display your page proudly at the top of their search results. Google may also show areas of your page as rich snippets like a featured answer, a review rating, or product information, which can achieve massive click-through rates of around 49.5%.1 Technical SEO is very important.
An example of a featured snippet achieved through good technical SEO. These snippets often get high click-through rates
When completing technical SEO for a website, key tasks include:
- Setting up a clear website page structure using good information architecture principles
- Adding the appropriate HTML tags to help search engines understand each page
- Improving the speed of the website by optimising its code and content
- Improving the UX of the website, particularly mobile usability
- Adding an SSL certificate to your website to make it secure
As you can see, these tasks are much more than just fixing errors that appear in apps like Google Search Console or Semrush. While these can certainly be helpful, a broader variety of changes are often needed to optimise the site properly, some of which can be drastic (like completely revamping the site’s page structure). That’s why new website designs can be a good way to achieve technical SEO—a quality design company can start fresh with an accurate structure, optimised coding, excellent UX, and other practices to achieve an excellent SEO ranking for the website.
A technical error shown in the coverage report on Google Search Console
As you might expect, some technical SEO tasks require the skills of a developer or SEO expert. But lots can be completed by non-technical people. We explore all of these tasks below.
On page SEO vs technical SEO
On page SEO is improving the content of a page—the headings, sentences, paragraphs, and images. It includes title and header improvements, keyword optimisation, and linking between relevant pages. Technical SEO is a much broader set of practices that includes structural improvements for the website, achieving faster load speeds, and fixing flagged errors from apps like Google Search Console.
Technical SEO makes your website pages easier to crawl and index by search engines, and on page SEO improves the content of those pages so they have a stronger chance of ranking for the desired keywords. For a high SEO score, and to have your pages appear in Google’s search results for the relevant keywords, you need to complete both on page SEO and technical SEO.
Technical SEO audit checklist
This technical SEO audit checklist contains the most effective SEO improvements that can be made to your website. As mentioned above, some of them will require the help of a developer or SEO professional, and others can be completed by people without coding experience.
1. Improve your website’s page structure
A website with a good page structure is logical, simple, and has as few levels as possible. The “flatter” your website structure, the easier it will be crawled and indexed by search engines. So if you can, try to structure your website’s pages in a way that uses as few levels as possible, while ensuring that every page has its own clear purpose and isn’t too broad. This can be a fine balancing act, and as always, it’s crucial to think of how your users would navigate your site. Just remember that pages under pages under pages is rarely a good idea because it’s harder for both the user and Google to navigate.
In addition to this, the purpose of each page should be decided based on how your users might group information. For example, if you’re an air conditioning company, your users might expect to see “ducted systems” as one page, “split systems” as another, and “testimonials” as another. The goal is to make the pages as logical as possible for them.
2. Improve your website’s speed
Google prioritises fast websites because they provide a better experience for users (this is one factor of their recent Core Web Vitals algorithm update). So making speed improvements to your site is an essential part of technical SEO. You can complete the following tasks and more:
- Complete SEO image optimisation to reduce the size of your images.
- Lazy load all images, so that they only load when they come into view for the user.
- Optimise your code to the bare minimum, including minifying scripts.
- Consider using a content delivery network (CDN). This ensures that your website is hosted on a server that is physically closer to the person viewing it, so it has a shorter distance to travel over the telephone line or satellite connection.
- Add caching to your website to prevent the same elements reloading every time a user visits. This includes browser-side caching and server-side caching.
- Optimise your server so that it performs more efficiently.
3. Improve your HTML
A well-built webpage has an accurate document structure, the necessary HTML meta tags, and the required HTML attributes. This means completed title tags, meta description tags, alt tags, and schema tags, to name a small few. In essence, the page should have as few HTML errors as possible, which can be tested through W3’s validation service.
The more accurate and complete your HTML, the easier it will be for search engines to read and understand the page.
4. Make your design mobile-friendly
Google released a major algorithm update back in 2015 that started rewarding mobile-friendly websites. So if your website is tiny and impossible to use on mobile, you will need to upgrade to a responsive site quicksharp. Otherwise, your site will probably plummet down Google’s rankings if it hasn’t already.
It isn’t just about getting a responsive website either. The mobile view of your website needs to have text that is readable, buttons and links that are easily clickable, a menu that is easy to use, and a whole lot more. The easier your site is to use on mobile, the better your SEO score will be.
5. Get an SSL certificate
The warning screen that shows on Google Chrome when a website doesn’t have an SSL certificate. Image from SetApp
To become known as a trusted search engine, Google only wants to show secure websites in their search results pages. To achieve this, any websites without an SSL certificate are prefixed with a warning screen about the lack of safety on the site. The user can choose to proceed, but it’s a pretty big deterrent, so you’ll want to get an SSL certificate on your website as quickly as possible. Not only will it improve your SEO, it should also increase the number of people who actually visit your website.
To get an SSL certificate, you’ll need to talk to your web hosting provider. If you’re collecting people’s personal information on your website, especially credit card information, you absolutely must have an SSL certificate.
6. Optimise your URLs
Your URLs tell search engines the structure and level of the page, and what it might be about. You want your URLs to be consistent across every page, with only the necessary words to describe them, and including the most relevant keywords.
For example, a bad URL structure for this blog would be:
This URL includes the blog topics as two sub levels, which is unnecessary, and a long-winded suffix that includes the words “and how does it help.” An optimised URL would look like the following:
This is much easier for search engines to understand, and will improve its SEO as a result.
7. Add structured markup
In the world of SEO, structured markup is metadata that gives search engines information about the page’s content. This allows them to better understand the content’s purpose, and potentially display it as a rich snippet in their search results, which can vastly increase the number of clicks that it gets.
You can add structured markup to a large variety of content types, but some common examples include articles, recipes, products, videos, and product reviews. You should add structured data to every available content type.
8. Remove duplicate or poor content
When you consider the trillions of web pages on the internet, it’s clear that search engines have a hell of a job trying to index it all. When they come across two pages on a website that seem identical, they will select the one that they believe is most relevant, which might not necessarily be the right choice.
To avoid this problem, and to reduce the number of unnecessary pages that search engines have to crawl on your website, be sure to remove any duplicate pages. You should also remove any pages that have low quality content that isn’t helping the user. The goal is to keep your web pages as high quality and relevant as possible, to improve the overall SEO of your website.
9. Add canonical URLs
In some instances, two pages may have very similar content but still be distinct enough that you need both of them. These pages are especially tricky for search engines because they struggle to figure out which one to index and show to their users. To avoid this problem, you can tell them which is the “preferred” page to index by adding a canonical link into the header of the “unpreferred” page, like this:
<link rel="canonical" href="https://news.mediaheroes.com.au/blog/link-to-blog" />
When Google or another search engine lands on the page, the link tells them not to index this page, but to index the preferred page instead.
10. Add internal links
Search engines can struggle to crawl some websites, especially if they have a deep and complex structure with layers upon layers of pages. That means some pages won’t be found and indexed by the engine, which is bad news for a business.
To improve the chances of your pages being found, add relevant links to them from your other pages. When a search engine comes across a link, it might decide to “follow” it, whereby it discovers the page and is more likely to index it.
Try to make your links as “natural” as possible, preferably used throughout the body text. It’s also a good idea to use the page's primary keywords in the link—e.g. “Learn more about SEO copywriting,” if your target keywords for the linked-to-page are “SEO copywriting.” Or for a more challenging, transactional keyword example, the link would go to a page about acquiring SEO in Brisbane 😉
11. Add breadcrumbs
Example of breadcrumbs on eBay
Breadcrumbs are a good way for search engines to understand the structure of your website, and the location of the page being viewed. They’re great for users too, for the same reason. One glance at a page’s breadcrumbs and it’s clear which level you are currently visiting on the site, and which sub-pages are above you. You can also navigate to these pages easily if desired.
12. Remove dead links
Dead links go to pages that no longer exist, which may be a signal to search engines that your website isn’t being maintained, or is completely inactive. Live links can also pass positive ranking signals to Google,2 so when links are dead, you’re missing out on these signals.
That’s why it’s important to stay on top of your dead links. Semrush’s Site Audit tool allows you to quickly identify broken links on your website, but there’s plenty of other (cheaper) tools that do the same. When you find a dead link, you can replace it with a suitable alternative, or remove it completely.
13. Design your 404 error page
A well-designed 404 page from HelpScout
A 404 error is when a page couldn’t be found for the URL. The default 404 is an ugly and unwelcoming “Page Not Found” message that the user can’t do much with, but thankfully, you can design this page to make it much more helpful and inviting. You might include something quirky that reflects your branding, some links or buttons to helpful pages, and also a navigation menu so the user can easily visit other pages on the site.
When this is in place, and the user starts interacting with the page, those interactions send positive user signals to search engines, and your SEO is given a little boost.
14. Use AMP for your blog
Example of AMP, one our blog about SERP volatility
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a Google project that allows mobile users to visit ultra-fast, stripped down versions of blogs. When you install AMP on your blog, whether through Wordpress, HubSpot, or another CMS, mobile users will be shown a simplified version with minimal design and graphics, so that it’s quicker to access, faster to read, and easier to interact with.
Because AMP blogs are supersonic and designed to be read on mobile, Google will give them a ranking boost.
15. Optimise your XML sitemap
An XML sitemap is a file that lists all of your website’s pages, and is another way for search engines to understand the structure and pages on your website. The sitemap is usually generated by your CMS, but can also be created manually if needed.
An optimised XML sitemap is one that only contains pages that you want to be indexed by search engines, so that the overall quality of your website remains high. Depending on the CMS you use, you should be able to pick and choose which pages to include in the XML sitemap, to encourage a higher SEO score.
Technical SEO helps Google and other search engines to crawl and index your website. It’s a fundamental set of processes that can make a huge difference to your rankings, which is why it deserves ongoing attention. At Media Heroes, we complete regular, ongoing technical SEO tasks for every one of our clients, which is reflected in their high positions in Google. We advise you to do the same!
- Matt G. Southern, 2020, Google SERP Study: Which Rich Results Get the Most Clicks?, SEJ
- Cyrus Shepard, 2021, Does Fixing Old Broken Links Still Matter to SEO?, Moz