The Beginner’s Guide to Technical SEO
- Technical SEO describes improvements you make to how your site is accessed, crawled, indexed, and rendered.
- They’re described as “technical” as you do need some knowledge of how websites work beyond just typing content or publishing a page.
- When combined with on- and off-page SEO, technical SEO can help your site reach peak performance.
If you’re familiar with on- and off-page SEO, you might be wondering why technical SEO even matters. You’ve done the on-page stuff like creating quality content with the right keywords, and you’ve done the off-page stuff like link-building, so why should you have to do even more to get good organic rankings?
Well, in brief, because Google says so. The search giant gets more than 90% of global search traffic, and they want everyone online to have as enjoyable a time as possible. And they do this by improving the quality of every website in the world. Obviously, that would be a massive task to take on for anyone else, but Google has long since realized that if they want every website owner to do things better, all they have to do is include it in their search algorithm.
Of course, it’s not as if adhering to best practices is just to appease our Google overlords, there’s also the added benefit of improving your visitors’ experience, making visitors more likely to stay on your website, visit your website again, or make a purchase.
But what is technical SEO, and are there technical SEO improvements that can be made by a relative beginner that will actually make a difference to their rankings? To answer those questions, we’ll start by taking a look at some of the most important elements of technical SEO and then give you some tips to improve on them.
What is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO describes improvements you make to how your site is accessed, crawled, indexed, and rendered. They are described as “technical” as you do need some knowledge of how websites work beyond just typing content or publishing a page, though most elements are still very accessible even for small business owners who might only have a few hours a week to tackle their SEO.
Let’s start with what’s included in technical SEO:
- Page speed: How quickly a page takes to load from the time a visitor clicks the link. Slow load speeds mean users get bored. Google doesn’t like that and punishes pages accordingly.
- Mobile: How well your site is optimized for the different needs of mobile users, such as how it fits onto a smaller screen, how menus open, and whether or not side scrolling is minimized.
- Crawling: What happens when Google’s robots try to “crawl” your site to find out what’s on there. The more difficult it is for them, the less happy they’ll be (not that the robots have feelings, but they’ll punish your SEO rankings anyway).
- Rendering: How a page is rendered on a user’s PC or device. This includes how and when images, widgets, or other features load and how they appear.
- SSL: Whether or not your site has the added protection of Secure Socket Layer for encrypting data sent to and from your pages.
- Structured data: These are standardized ways that the major search engines want to have site data structured and is known as Schema.org.
- Content optimization: Ensuring that your site’s content is optimized, that is that it isn’t duplicate or too short and adheres to Google’s EAT content guidelines.
- Indexation: This refers to how search engines store and organize your website and pages.
- Site structure: How your site is laid out, including its URL trees and how pages link internally.
All of these elements are important for your site’s ranking on Google results pages to greater or lesser degrees. Some of them might already be fine because they were set up correctly at the start. It would be a lot for anyone to try addressing all of these issues straight away, especially considering their technical nature.
So, for now, we’ll try and help you find some of the low-hanging technical SEO fruit that you can get to easily and might make a big difference to your rankings.
Technical SEO Tips
Use lazy load to improve page speeds: Page load speed is huge for Google and your customers alike. Research by Moz found that pages that took a second or less to load converted 150% better than pages that took 5+ seconds. One way Google has described to do this is through ‘lazy loading’, which means that elements which are not visible or necessary (e.g. those below the fold of the web page) are the last to load.
Make sure your site is responsive: This is absolutely critical in an age when more than half of searches start on mobile (and over 70% for some industries). We have talked about its implications for SEO before, so one of the first and best things you can do to help your technical SEO is finding out how responsive your site is and what/if anything needs to be changed to make it more so.
Ensure Google knows your canonical content: The bigger and more authoritative your site or the more widely shared your content gets, the better for your rankings. However, it also increases the chance your content will be copied both on your own page and by other sites. Google doesn’t like duplicate content as it’s an indication of spam and general laziness. Using canonical tags (by including ‘rel canonical’ in the HTML) tells Google which page is the original and which one you want to be displayed in search results. This helps you avoid getting penalized for duplicate content.
Use SSL: Using a secure socket layer (SSL) gives your site a security certificate that shows you’re using the highest encryption standards for data exchange. This is easily seen by a URL starting with ‘https’ instead of ‘http’ for those without SSL. Google has confirmed that https sites perform better in rankings than http. They also list ‘http’ pages as ‘Not Secure’ which is akin to putting a ‘Possible Rats Inside’ sticker on the door of a restaurant. Put your visitors and Google at ease by employing SSL protection for your site.
Take advantage of Google’s search console: Once your site has been verified with Google, you get to use the advantages offered by its Search Console. While the benefits of the analytics are great for understanding your customers better, it also boosts your technical SEO capabilities. You can use it to find out what links are pointing to your site (and make sure they’re from reputable sources), ask Google to crawl new content and to give you an overview of your site’s internal architecture.
A Three-Pronged Approach
With on-page, off-page, and technical SEO, we know that the whole process of getting organic rankings can seem like climbing Mt. Everest, except with the mountain being located on another planet and the only tools you have being a screwdriver and a pizza slicer. But things aren’t always as difficult as they first appear and with the right help, everything can get a heck of a lot easier.
So whether you want to get the right tools, be brought to a good starting point, or to reach the absolute peaks of SEO perfection Redefine can help you with all of it. To talk to us about all of your technical SEO needs you can get in touch with us here.