Search engine optimization (SEO) is a multifaceted process. Any successful SEO strategy will include various components, such as quality content creation and link building. However, these components alone are not enough to boost a website to page one. Even with the best content and numerous backlinks, websites that are not technically optimized are incapable of meeting their full potential. Technical SEO is an integral part of any marketing strategy and can act as a platform upon which other strategies are allowed to thrive.
To further understand, consider this definition of technical SEO by Page One Power: “Technical SEO is a branch of the wider SEO industry that focuses on analyzing a website’s technical features that interact with search engine crawlers. Generally, the goal of technical SEO is to make it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site.” Technical SEO works on optimizing a website’s infrastructure, which in turn helps the website rank better in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Without it, a site might often run into problems with indexing and ranking, as well as fail in terms of usability.
While technical SEO might initially seem extremely complex, you can master it by building a strong foundation. You want to start broad, and then go deeper into various facets of technical SEO. A rough syllabus for learning technical SEO would include starting with the basics like web development and simple computer programming. Then, you’d move on to learning about popular SEO tools and put all your knowledge into real-time practice.
One of the tools you should be well-versed with is Google Search Console. This platform is free and allows you to identify technical problems quickly and efficiently, resulting in speedier solutions to the same. Once you have these initial components mastered, you could study specific SEO aspects like how search engines work and various technical components. This final phase is the most important, as it will get you properly acquainted with important aspects of technical SEO. Let’s explore what some of these look like, and the essential factors you will have to familiarize yourself with:
Indexing and Crawling
One of the first things you want to do is ensure that your site can be indexed and crawled. Your robots.txt file is primarily responsible for telling search engines how to index and crawl your site. These files contain commands that tell bots whether they should crawl a particular page or not. You will need to review your robots.txt file to make sure it doesn’t block important pages so that you don’t lose out on gaining authority on them.
The crawlability of your site is also affected by duplicate pages and content. While search engines may not penalize you for having them, duplicate pages do make your website extremely confusing. As mentioned in our previous article, The Technical SEO Hierarchy of Needs, Google may not index pages when a more authoritative version exists for the same content. Essentially, duplicate content ends up having to compete for visibility, ultimately affecting your website and leading to a loss of traffic. It is good practice to identify duplicate content on your site and have it removed or reworked.
Finally, you’ll want to check your site for error codes. Each error code means something different and can confuse crawlers about your site. Page error codes should never be ignored. Review your site for error codes and ensure than any broken pages are quickly fixed, so as to not negatively affect your overall SEO efforts.
The structure of your website is another important topic under technical SEO. To optimize your website structure, you will have to consider your sitemap, URL structure, and internal linking organization. When all these are structurally sound, your general SEO efforts will become more effective.
To give a brief overview, a sitemap is your website’s navigational guide. It helps both humans and bots make their way through your site, shedding light on its organization and structures. Sitemaps are especially useful to simplify the process of indexing. In an article on Search Engine Watch, SEO expert Aleh Barysevich recommends keeping sitemaps regularly updated, concise (under 50,000 URLs), and free from error codes, page redirects, and blocked resources.
A website’s URL — its location on the internet — can be structured in two ways: subfolders and subdomains. In terms of SEO, subfolders tend to be more beneficial. URL structures can also vary by country. For sites that target audiences in different countries, experts at Moz recommend choosing a URL structure “that makes it easy to target their domain or pages to specific countries.” For instance, this could include “the use of a country code top-level domain, such as ‘.ca’ for Canada.”
Finally, you will want to review your website’s internal linking structure. Most SEO professionals know the value of external links but often overlook the many benefits of efficient internal linking. A clever internally linked website can spread link equity across all pages effectively and boost the authority of pages that receive less traffic.
Proper internal linking also helps organize your content better, grouping it into logical topic clusters. When you are creating an internal network of links for your website, be sure to use descriptive and informational anchor text that appropriately directs humans and bots. Remember, utilize contextual links where possible — these often have more SEO value than those in headers, footers, and sidebars.
According to Moz, more than half of all web traffic today comes from mobile devices. Considering this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that by the end of 2018, Google started using mobile-first indexing for the majority of the pages in SERPs. In the Search Engine Watch article, Barysevich explains what mobile-first indexing means: “A mobile-first index means that now Google crawls the web from a mobile point of view: a site’s mobile version is used for indexing and ranking even for search results shown to desktop users. In case there’s no mobile version, Googlebot will simply crawl a desktop one.”
While mobile-responsiveness is not required for a site to be moved to the index, it does play a role in determining how your site will be ranked in mobile and desktop SERPs. With this in mind, it’s important that your website has a mobile-friendly design.
If you aren’t sure of the responsiveness of your page, use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool to find out. The tool evaluates websites based on different criteria like viewport configuration, size of text and buttons and the use of plugins. You can also track the mobile performance of your website through Google Search Console.
Depending on the size of your website, you may prefer to outsource your technical SEO audit. However, if you decide to evaluate your site yourself, you should review the major elements covered in this article to improve your technical SEO.
You cannot do without technical SEO if you want your website rank higher in search results. While it may seem daunting to embark on the technical SEO journey, the effect it will have on your website is well worth the effort.
The original version of this article was first published on V3Broadsuite.