Step-by-Step Technical SEO Checklist: Ensuring Optimal Website Performance

I’ve spent years running technical search engine optimization audits, and one thing I want you to know is that you need a checklist. Why?

Creating processes and procedures help you get through technical SEO much faster than without them. When I first started out, I didn’t use checklists, but the one I’m sharing with you I created out of necessity. You can use it for your own technical SEO.

Ludwig Makhyan

I’ve spent years running technical search engine optimization audits, and one thing I want you to know is that you need a checklist. Why?

Creating processes and procedures help you get through technical SEO much faster than without them. When I first started out, I didn’t use checklists, but the one I’m sharing with you I created out of necessity.

A long time ago, I was working on a site performing technical SEO. I didn’t spend time creating processes and procedures. This oversight led to me spending 10 hours trying to find what I missed and why this site lost its rankings after a migration.

If I had used a checklist, I would have seen that many of the redirects that were in place on the original site were lost.

Thanks to this thorough checklist, I’ll never make that mistake again. You can use it for your own technical SEO.

21 Items to Check in Technical SEO

1. Run a Crawl of the Site

Every time I do any sort of technical SEO, I begin with a full site audit. Manually going through a site is lost time. Instead, use a tool to help crawl the entire site for errors and issues. I recommend running an audit using one or a combination of the following:

  1. Screaming Frog
  2. Ahrefs
  3. Semrush

A lot of tools work, but I prefer Screaming Frog. It’s easy to use and provides a ton of functionality.

It saves your audit because you’ll be going through the list of issues one-by-one to fix each error. It’s a lot of work to perform a technical SEO audit, but using the tools above will help you get through this process faster.

Go through the following steps.

2. 404 pages

Go through your list and sort it by 404 errors. You’ll want to go manually to each page and learn what’s wrong. For example, maybe the page was deleted either on purpose or by accident. I do recommend seeing if the page is on and whether it has any relevance to the site.

You have a few options:

  • Redirect the page to a relevant one to pass SEO value
  • Remove internal links pointing to this page
  • If the page was lost due to a migration, restore the page.

3. Redirects

Redirects can cause a lot of errors, but they’re also very powerful when shaping a site. You’ll want to do the same thing as with the 404 error, including:

  • Fix redirect chains
  • Fix redirect loops
  • Fix any other issues

4. Crawlability

Fixing the major errors above is going to be crucial to improving your technical SEO. Now, you want to be sure that your site is able to be crawled. Your scan using Screaming Frog will allow you to learn whether any of the pages on your site aren’t accessible.

If pages cannot be crawled then they cannot rank.

You’ll want to do a few things to ensure that pages are easy to crawl, including:

  • Create an XML sitemap
  • Create internal links to each page
  • Ensure each page is indexable in robots.txt
  • Check meta robots tags to ensure you don’t have “noindex” or “nofollow” tags

Of course, there are also other issues that may impact your site’s crawlability. Work on fixing these and then go on to the next step.

5. Create/Update robots.txt

Point five overlaps with point four and involves the robots.txt file. You can use this file to control how crawl bots access your site. For example, you may not want search engines to index certain pages on your site, and you can control this through the robots.txt file.

As part of any technical SEO, you must review the robots.txt file and make sure that you’re:

  • Not disallowing certain bots
  • Linking up your sitemaps
  • Allowing user agents

If you don’t know how to create or update a robots.txt file, Google Search Central has an entire guide to help you through creating this file.

6. Update Meta Robots Attributes

If you still have issues with certain pages not being indexed, you’ll want to spend time on these pages browsing the source code. You want to search for the following tag:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” />

In the “content” section, you may find one or a combination of multiple tags:

  • Index — allows indexing of the page
  • Noindex — disallows indexing
  • Follow — allows bots to follow links on the page
  • Nofollow — disallows bots to follow the page
  • None — a combination of noindex and no follow

You may also find other tags, but these are the most important. Change the noindex and nofollow tags as necessary if you want these pages to be crawled by search engines.

7. HTML/XML Sitemap

Next up on the list is creating a sitemap. You can add sitemaps to Google Search Console and Bing to help search engines find the pages on your site. Most sites create one or more sitemap.xml files, depending on how many pages they have.

While you can make sitemaps manually, it’s best done through automation.

Use one of the following to make a sitemap:

  • Install a plugin on the site’s CMS
  • Create a sitemap using Screaming Frog

Sitemaps will make it easier to improve the crawlability of your site.

8. Add / Edit Alt Text

Alt text on images is so easy to ignore, but it’s also an important aspect of SEO that you have 100% control over. Many site audit tools will list alt text for all of the images on a page. You’ll want to:

  • Add alt text for any images without them
  • Edit alt text to optimize it

If your site has a lot of errors and other issues, alt text can move down to one of the last things that you fix.

9. Add / Update Canonical Tag

Opening your audit list, you’ll likely find canonical tags listed. These tags are important when search engines are crawling your site because you don’t want to waste their time. Instead, you want to tell it when you have duplicate pages and not to follow all of them.

Additionally, you can consolidate your link equity by using canonical tags.

Google can figure a lot out on its own, but it’s always better to set these tags and be explicit in shaping your site. Even if you don’t think you have duplicate content, you could if you have:

  • Products with multiple sizes or colors, such as “pants.php?color=blue” and so on
  • Products that appear in multiple categories

Adding the tag is simple using the below code:

<link rel=“canonical” href=“” />

In the ideal scenario, you want to make sure that you:

  • Use all lowercase URLs
  • Add HTTP/HTTPS properly

10. Copy Audit

Performing a content audit is a good idea for times when a site has a lot of content and some pages aren’t ranking. You never know what changes a site has undergone in recent years, and a single migration may be enough to lose important data including:

  • Metadata
  • Titles
  • Headings
  • Formatting

Go through the pages that aren’t ranking to analyze:

  • Metadata
  • On-page SEO practices
  • Content quality

Many tools will provide you with a listing of page titles and metadata to review. These tools will help you speed up the audit and find key issues that exist.

11. Hreflang

Hreflang adds a signal to Google and is a best practice, especially when working with many similar pages. If you have localized content with the same language, you’ll also need to add this tag. For example, let’s assume that you sell shoes in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

Due to the difference in currency, you may have different pages for each location with the same content.

Adding a tag, in this case, may look something like this:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-gb” href=”” />

You also add these tags for the equivalent in another language. For example, you may add them when for the German page equivalent using “de” as the hreflang.

12. Internal Linking

Internal linking is one way to spread around your link equity and helps search engines understand the content clusters on your site. When you run your first site crawl, you may find “orphan pages” or pages that do not have links to them.

Adding links to them will help with the page being crawled and indexed by search engines.

Creating interlinks on a large site is a very time-consuming process, but it needs to be done. I highly recommend using plugins for this job if you’re on WordPress. The goal is to:

  • Link “like” pages to one another
  • Add a few internal links inside of each post

However, don’t just add internal links if they don’t add to the user experience and help the user navigate your site properly.

13. Metadata

Metadata needs to be present on every page, and all of the previously listed site audit tools should list this data for you. If you notice any of the following are missing, begin adding them into the mix:

14. Mobile Setup

Mobile sites are a must-have in search engine optimization. If the site isn’t responsive or adaptive, you have your work cut out for you. While it’s not your job to redo an entire site to make it mobile friendly, it’s something that you’ll need to pass on to key stakeholders.

It’s imperative that you alert the site’s owners or main marketing teams that the site must be revamped to be mobile-friendly.

15. Usability and Navigation

You should manually check every different layout on the website to ensure that usability is perfect. The page should have:

  • Clear and easy-to-follow navigation
  • Working links
  • Options for users without JavaScript

Breadcrumbs are another good option for navigation and can help users and search bots find their way back to key pages on your site.

16. Pagination

A part of usability, pagination is so important that you’ll want to check it manually. You should view pagination pages to ensure that they:

  • Function properly
  • Are easy to use

17. Site Speed

Site speed is an important part of search engine optimization, and it’s something that has recently increased in importance. You can use a lot of tools to check your site speed including:

  • PageSpeed Insights
  • GTmetrix
  • Many others

You’ll want to follow best practices, including:

  • Caching the website’s pages
  • Minifying CSS and JS
  • Optimizing images
  • Using a CDN

A CDN is important for your site’s overall speed and performance. If you have a CDN in place, it will help speed up the site’s image, CSS, JS and other delivery. Working to reach a high rating on PageSpeed Insights will help visitors have a better experience on the site and will allow search engines to crawl more pages in less time.

18. Structured Data

Using structured data is a way to provide search engines with clues about the content on a page. For example, you can tell a search engine that a certain page contains:

  • Recipes
  • Who it’s authored by
  • Date published
  • Prep time

When Google displays this page in the search results, it may contain a rich snippet that will allow it to have prominence in the search results. For example, for recipes, the listing will likely have a picture of the food, ratings, time to cook and calories.

Of course, structured data is available for all types of content that go well beyond just recipes.

Adding in structured data and putting systems in place to incorporate this type of data in the future is a must-do for any technical SEO.

19. Add Your Site to Google Search Console

Finally, if the site hasn’t been added to Google Search Console, it’s time to add it. GSC will help you identify errors that need fixing. You can add the site for free by going to

You’ll want to go through this checklist and add your own steps over time. However, it’s a great start for anyone who is new or experienced with technical SEO to follow.

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