What is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO is the nuts and bolts of your campaign. It’s the process of optimizing your website and server in order to help search engine bots to crawl and index your website easily, quickly, and accurately with the goal of improving your site’s visibility and organic rankings. Technical SEO is a foundational part of any impactful and effective SEO campaign and without it, you’re hampering your results.
These days, search engines have certain technical requirements and making sure that your technical SEO is up to scratch is the best way of ensuring that you meet and even exceed these expectations. Some of the most important aspects of technical SEO include improving search engine crawling and indexing, browser rendering, and your overall website hierarchy and architecture.
There’s a range of different tools and skills used to implement proper technical SEO. While it might not be as flashy as other search engine optimization practices, but it’s just as important. Often, it’s one of the first things you want to get sorted as part of your campaign – trust us, most websites are littered with problems and issues behind the scenes that requires an adept hand at technical SEO to fix.
Why exactly is technical SEO so important?
Technical SEO is important because without it, you can do everything else right and you still won’t rank. Spent months injecting your website with fresh new quality content? Employed an expert link builder to boost your domain authority and visibility? Great. But if your technical SEO is in bad shape, then you’re still not going to earn higher rankings.
Think of it in the simplest terms possible – search engines analyse and communicate with your website by crawling and indexing it. If your technical SEO is bad and is hampering this process, then you’re stopping Google from seeing how great your website actually is. Google search needs to be able to crawl and index all your pages quickly and accurately. That is, if you want to gain organic ranking on the SERPs.
But even if you’re successfully enabling Google to index all of your website’s lovely content, you’ve only done the basics. There’s a lot more to get done.
To comprehensively optimize your website for technical SEO, you’re going to need to work on security, page speed, duplicate content issues, metatags, mobile optimization and, well, a lot of other things too. Does your technical SEO need to be perfectly watertight in order for you to enjoy any SEO success whatsoever? No, of course not. But everything you do contributes to the bigger picture (and your overall search rankings).
Technical SEO should be considered a longterm project to be performed continuously alongside your other SEO tactics. There’s a LOT to do, and you shouldn’t let small technical SEO issues get in the way of your other campaign tactics.
Why is technical SEO important? Just imagine the scenario – you’ve spent months building and ensuring a smooth migration to a new website. You’ve got big things planned – you’ve got fresh content assets and you’ve done some work to build a bit of publicity around the new launch. The big day finally comes, you launch, and… your website takes eight seconds to load. All that traffic you’ve been working to bring in suffers from a bounce rate you could have avoided.
That’s why technical SEO is important – because without it working properly, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Improving performance and user experience with technical SEO
This is where the bulk of technical SEO happens. Not only do you have to improve performance for search engines and their bots for when they crawl and index your website, but you also have to ensure that your website performs well for users accessing your website.
Now, there’s a lot that goes into this. So let’s get started.
It really doesn’t matter what kind of website you’re running – you need to run fast.
Slow websites don’t do well, and unfortunately, there’s really no way of getting around this fact. The only thing to do is to work on speeding your website up.
For some time, Google has indicated that page speed is a ranking factor for its search algorithms. Now, that’s bad enough. But combined with the fact that websites with slow load speeds suffer from incredibly high bounce rates and what is known as ‘pogo sticking’ – where users get sick of the loading, click off, and immediately go for the next relevant link, then you can see just how important page speed actually is.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do with technical SEO in order to improve your speed:
Image optimisation – Most websites use a lot of images. Images also tend to be large and slow down your website speed. But rather than strip your website of all its images and leave users with a completely blank and boring (but, to be fair, quick) website, you can instead use image compression.
Resizing and compression allows you to maintain image quality while reducing file size. It sounds like such a small job, but the results of image compression can be really surprising and impactful. Trust us, the amount of websites on the internet bogged down by needlessly large image files beggars belief.
Reducing your redirects – Redirects, while often useful, can begin to bog you down and lower your page speed when you have too many. Every time your page redirects to another URL, your users are spending more time than necessary waiting around and potentially becoming frustrated (and potentially leaving your website). Redirect chains should be cleared up and optimised in order to save users a bit of time – you might needlessly be adding seconds to the load time. This might not seem important, but when it comes to site speed, seconds really do matter.
Browser caching – Browser caching can be useful – after all, when a browser caches a website it won’t need to reload the page from scratch when a user revisits your website. Browsers can also cache a lot of information, like images, files and coding – things which, when cached, will reduce the site speed significantly.
The structure and site architecture of a website is more important than it may seem at first. In fact, it’s an important SEO factor both for search engine indexing and for user experience. Basically, it’s something that you really want to get right.
Users are far more likely to spend longer on your website if they are able to find the information they need more quickly and easily – and if you’re building a funnel (while building an e-commerce site, for example), then this is especially important. Not to mention the fact that a better, more navigable site structure will speed up search engine crawling and indexing.
To make a website more navigable, readable, and user friendly, you’ll need to focus on not just the structure but also the entire dressing. For example, factors such as font size, style and colour, backgrounds, language, writing style and formatting all needs to be taken into account.
But behind the scenes, there’s even more going on.
In years gone by, it was believed that archive pages and using multiple category pages would actually damage your SEO results for your important pages. As a result, SEOs would actually sabotage their site structure by having all their content under one category and hiding archive pages from users. But this isn’t good practice.
The truth is that Google will assess the overall structure and hierarchy of your website when analysing a single page of your website. These days, it’s more important than ever for SEOs to build a coherent and functional site structure.
Contrary to the belief that you need to force Google’s hand by keeping all your content under one category in order to get the results you want, having a branching site structure is actually a benefit. In fact, Google has even said as much in their own guidelines. A well defined site hierarchy actually gives you an opportunity to accurately guide Google to the most important content on your website – without sacrificing structure and navigation and page importance.
Believe it or not, there are still a lot of websites out there that completely ignore mobile devices. In fact, not optimising for mobile is still one of the most common SEO mistakes out there on the web. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of loading up a page on our phone and it being… completely broken. It doesn’t exactly make a good impression.
If you want to avoid making the same bad impression, then becoming mobile friendly isn’t really an option. That’s why mobile optimisation is increasingly becoming a more important part of technical SEO. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to accomplish.
Once you have a mobile version of your website optimised and configured, the good thing is that you won’t really need to worry about this again. It requires a lot of technical SEO expertise to set up, but once you’ve got a fully functioning mobile site set up with all the same great content (which is especially important with Google’s mobile-first index) and a fast page load speed, you can rest assured that mobile visitors to your website will be happy – and Google will too.
XML Site Map
XML site map optimisation is one of the most important parts of technical SEO. It’s essentially a list and map of all the pages on your website. Why is it so important? Well, when search bots come to your website to begin indexing content, this is what they’ll use to find their way around. It’s kind of like a search roadmap.
With a fully optimised XML site map, you’ll be able to make sure that search engines find all the most important pages on your site. Your XML site map has a lot of important information for search crawlers and is usually categorized in posts, tags, pages and more.
Fortunately, setting up a really good XML site map usually isn’t too difficult – but you definitely need someone with technical SEO to handle this. Get it wrong, and you’ll probably end up sabotaging your own results.
One of the most fundamental technical aspects of SEO is ensuring that search robots come to your website and have a really easy time getting around to all your multiple pages in order to index your great content. Having a brilliant internal linking structure and XML site map ready will go a long way, but there’s actually more you can do to guide search bots around your site.
You can use the robots.txt file in order to create a full list of pages you want to be crawled, while blocking certain website pages you don’t want to be indexed, or allowing the crawl but preventing a page from showing in search results and bringing in organic traffic to somewhere you don’t want.
SSL and HTTPS
Web security is more important than ever. And for SEOs, having HTTPS is a known ranking signal for Google, as well as being a vital part of building trust with users.
To do this, you need a technical SEO to install SSL on your server. SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, allows your website to be viewed using HTTPS and not HTTP – meaning that all information and data transferred between website and server (you know, all the important stuff like emails, passwords, personal information, payment information) is encrypted and secure.
Of course, this is particularly important for e-commerce websites that deal with people’s payment details. But really, these days all websites should have SSL as part of its security.
HTTPS ensures that no data can be intercepted, keeping both you and your users safe. It’s a part of technical SEO that can’t be overlooked.
Structured Data Markup
Structured data is becoming an increasingly important aspect of technical SEO. This is because the information you communicate to Google with structured data markup heavily affects the search results and can earn you more of what we like to call search engine real estate. Essentially, structured data and schema allows you to provide Google more information and context about your website when it crawls and indexes it.
Structured data, or schema, is basically a piece of code that is written in a way that makes it easier for search engines to understand more about your website. In turn, the search engine algorithms can use this information in order to provide its users with more accurate and in-depth information when you appear in the search results. Most often written in J-SON code, schema markup can take a lot of technical SEO understanding to set up – but it’s more than worth it.
Using structured data markup allows you enhance and improve the way that you website appears in the search engine results page. Known as rich snippets – or featured snippets – schema markup gives you the chance to take up more space on the SERPs and provide more information and value to users at the initial point of contact.