What Is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO is a field of SEO that ensures that websites are working properly and meeting the latest technical requirements of the search engines. Technical optimization is essential for better ranking, crawlability, indexing and website architecture. No matter how good your SEO strategy is, if your site has a technical problem, this will put it on the downslope.
Basically, technical optimization is an on-page SEO activity which focuses on improving your website for a better ranking in search engines. Technical SEO is vital because it helps Google understand your site better and therefore give it a higher rank.
Site speed, mobile-friendliness, site security, schema markups, duplicate content, internal linking, URL redirects and site maps are all a part of the technical SEO.
Why Is Technical SEO Important?
Although search engines get better and better at understanding content, you should not solely rely on that. If your site has any technical issues, it can prevent it from getting crawled, indexed and will lose visibility in the search results.
Your site can have the best content – SEO optimized, well-written, imagery included, but if it has any technical issues, it won`t rank. Technical problems prevent search engines from crawling and indexing your site`s content.
Technical SEO needs to be always optimized so that you provide a solid foundation for marketing your website. Technical optimization is one of the essential steps your content and links need to make to get a deserved spot in the search results page.
All in all, search engines want to provide their user with the most relevant results to their queries and the best user experience. This is why technical factors matter a lot in ranking. Nobody wants to send their user to a lousy malfunctioning, non-secure and slow-loading site. Therefore, creating a technically optimized environment for your website will benefit both users and search engines.
Search engines` requirements change by the day and becoming more and more complex. Therefore you need to keep up with them to maintain a good Technical SEO for your website.
A technically optimized site means that it is fast, easy to navigate, and crawl for search engines; and it doesn`t send users or search engines to dead links and non-existent pages.
We at SEO Hero UK have prepared for you the best practices to adopt for your site to be technically optimized. Continue reading to find out what your site needs to meet most of the search engines requirements for better ranking!
Site Structure and Navigation
Let`s start with something simple – site structure. This is the number 1 step into technical SEO optimization. Site structure is the mainframe on which you build up your technical SEO strategy. It comes even before crawlability and indexing. Poor site structure design affects all technical SEO aspects – from URLs to sitemaps. Building a good site structure helps you a lot in doing any technical SEO task.
Site structure has one purpose – to organize your website pages and give a good user experience. Knowing that, we suggest you build your website in a “flat:” structure. This means that each page should be only a couple of links away from each other. Flat site structure also helps Google to crawl each of your pages. The bigger your site is, the flatter and easy to navigate your site should be. Strong site structure is a significant factor when you try to retain users on your site.
Using breadcrumbs is an excellent way to help users with site navigation. Breadcrumbs show the user exactly where he is on a website, regarding the website`s hierarchy . It`s also very SEO-friendy. Breadcrumbs automatically add internal links to a category in your website, which is excellent for site navigation and stepping up you site structure game. They reduce the number of actions for users if they try to reach the homepage or move through categories. So if you have an e-commerce site, you need breadcrumbs. They are an easy and comprehensive way to navigate through your site, but they mustn`t be your primary navigation.
By crawling, search engines discover content. Search engines use robots to find links that lead to your website. They crawl your website to understand your content. A great way to help robots grasp your content is by creating a good internal linking structure. Apart from that, there are other ways to guide robots through your site – such as blocking them from crawling some content on your site or telling them not to show a specific page in the search results.
You can give directions to the search engine robots through the robots.txt file. This file contains information (code) on how your website looks like and how it works. You can view your robots.txt file on [yourwebsite.com]/robots.txt. The meta robots tag is a piece of code that tells robots what`s on the webpage and instruct them what to do with it – should they crawl it or show it in the search results.
Handle responsibly and with understanding the robots.txt file to prevent your site from being blocked for the robots and not being indexed in the search results.
Duplicate content is content that is the same or similar on more than one page. It can be on one website or on the web in general. Duplicate content is not punishable by search engines, but it is not suitable for your site`s technical SEO. It is not an issue for most sites, but it can hurt your ranking.
If you have duplicate content on your website, try to rephrase it or remove it entirely. Having duplicate content is bad because it can lead to competing with yourself in the search results. Use canonical URL to signify which is the original source of the content. This helps the search engines understand which content they need to crawl and show in the search results.
URL structure is one of the easiest, yet often forgotten aspects that can cause technical issues with your site. URLs should follow a simple, consistent and logical structure. A good URL structure consists of the domain name, followed by a category and a product name or heading. This type of structure helps the users (and search engines) understand where they are on your website. Clear and consistent URL structure also counts as a ranking factor.
URLs need to be short and descriptive. If they contain a keyword, that`s very good. This will help with relevancy and search engines will classify it in the search results for that keyword. Keep in mind that SEO-friendly URLs contain lowercase Latin words, separated by hyphens. Be brief with the URL address and don`t surpass 2048 characters (even though that is quite a lot). It`s best to stick to a specific URL format on your site. Don`t change any existing URLs to fit your new link structure, there`s no value in doing so. Stick to your determined URL structure when publishing new content.
Structured data is also a tool that helps search engines understand the content on your website. They tell search engines what type of content they are crawling – article, business information, location, product, service, recipe, FAQ pages or other. Using structured data (or Schema.org) is a significant factor which gives you a higher rank in search results. It even gives you a chance to appear as a rich snippet and stand out in the search results page.
Rich snippets are a type of search result that appear above all results. It boosts your website`s visibility and often leads to a higher click-through rate. To increase your chances in appearing as a rich result, make sure to:
- Include schema mark up at least to your homepage, contact page and about page;
- Validate your markup with Google`s structured data testing tool;
- Use your company name, logo, URL and sameAs properties and include all your social profiles.
Dead Links and Orphaned Pages
Landing on a non-existent page (Error 404: Page not found) is not a good user experience. Furthermore, search engines don`t like these error pages either. These are called dead links. And search engines crawl and index them, because they haven`t been redirected. To prevent such issues, you should always redirect a page that is deleted or moved.
Another way to deal with dead links is to optimize your 404 page. If you haven`t redirected your 404 page, you can:
- Create a custom 404 page with a captivating design, aligned with your site`s theme;
- Tell the visitors in an original way that the page is no longer available and give them options for redirection;
- Suggest them relative pages;
- Keep the sites structure and navigation menu, so that it`s easy for the visitor to reach the previous page, your homepage or any other important pages.
Orphaned pages are pages that don`t have internal crawlable links that lead to them. They are created mainly by poor site structure. It`s not good to have orphaned pages on your website, because search engines cannot find them, crawl and index them. They can hardly be found even with auditing tools, which crawl similarly like search engines.
If your orphaned pages have some important content on them, you need to locate them and incorporate them in your site structure. This includes adding internal links from crawlable pages on your site to your orphaned pages. Another way to search engines find your orphaned pages is by backlinks from other websites, but it`s best to link them with your internal site navigation.
Site speed is a big factor today for both users and search engines. No matter how much good content a website has, if it`s slow, most of the visitors will bounce and never return. Search engines want to provide users with great experience and will rank your site lower if it`s not fast. By that being said, you seriously need to maintain a fast loading site.
There are a few things you can do to technically optimize your site`s speed:
- Get a faster DNS provider;
- Install a caching plugin to deliver files to visitors faster;
- Compress and optimize your images. Install a plugin such as Short Pixel to compress any big-sized imagery that slows your site. Use the required minimum image size and opt for .jpg for photography and .png for graphics.
- Use a Content Distribution Network (CDN) to distribute your content on multiple servers worldwide. This way, a visitor uses the closest servers to his location to receive data.
- Don`t put excessive plugins, widgets or tracking codes on your site, they slow it down because they need extra time to load.
- Reduce the redirects. The more redirects your page has, the more its loading speed decreases.
A site map is a list of all the pages on your website. It helps search engines navigate through your website. The site map is essential as it aids the search engines crawl all important content on your site. They are a very crucial source of URLs for search engines, because site maps also contain orphaned pages.
Site map is also known as XML map (the most popular site map format). It comprises of all the site`s categorized pages, posts and images, tags and the last modification dates for each page. XML maps are not a necessity if your site has excellent structure and internal linking. But having it anyways, will not be a bad idea.
Site maps can be easily optimized. Just add to your site map pages that are important for your site, such as pages, categories and posts. Skip including in your site map elements such as author pages and tag pages. Be sure that your XML map gets automatically updated when a new page is posted or a page is modified.
Site security is quite essential these days. Optimize your site to be secure for your visitors. This way, you can guarantee your visitors` privacy. The primary thing and a very important one to do to make your site safe, is to implement a HTTPS by SSL certificate. HTTPS makes sure that the data sent between the browser and the site cannot be intercepted. This means when a visitor logs into your site, their credentials and other sensitive information, are encrypted and cannot be compromised.
It`s very easy to check if a site has a HTTPS certificate. In the browser, on the left side of the search bar, just before the domain, if a lock appears, then the site is secured. Be sure to have one on your site. Not to mention that site security is a ranking factor for search engines.
Mobile-friendliness becomes increasingly important nowadays as most of the users use their mobile devices to search for content. In terms of technical SEO, it`s as crucial as website loading speed. If your website doesn`t have mobile version, it won`t appear in the mobile search results. To find out if your site needs optimization, use Google`s mobile-friendly test tool.
Even if it passes the test, here are some things you need to take into consideration, regarding mobile-friendliness:
- Your mobile site should have the same content as your desktop site, including internal linking and keyword density. Search engines rank mobile sites separately of desktop sites, so all good ranking factors you should include in your mobile site as well.
- Don`t use any pop-ups on your mobile site.
- Mobile sites should fully load for no longer than 6 seconds.
- Provide an excellent user experience on your mobile site – easy to navigate menus, flat structure, responsive graphics.
If your site is international and has more than one language version, you should orientate search engines which countries you are targeting. You can do this by using hreflang tags. With hreflang tags you can reach the geotargeted audience and show them the right version of your website in the search results.
Hreflang defines which page for which country and language is meant for. It even helps with duplicate content. For instance, if you have US and UK website version, hreflang shows search engines which page is suitable for the specific region. Optimizing your site with hreflang is also a ranking factor.
Technical SEO consists of many settings and checks that you need to do to make sure your site is optimized. Technical optimization is key to search engines to be able to crawl and index your site without problems.
By doing technical optimization right, you don`t need to worry about it again, except for periodic technical SEO audits.
Make sure your site is working properly and doesn`t get a penalty from search engines in ranking. Call SEO Hero UK to get your technical SEO audit and optimization. We, at SEO Hero UK have the expert knowledge in providing the best technical SEO service for your website!