What Is Technical SEO?

technical seo

Wish to dominate the SERPs and enjoy better conversion rates? Then it’s time to get technical.

Search engines give preference to web pages that display certain technical characteristics, such as a responsive design, fast loading time, or a secure connection.

Technical SEO refers to improving the technical aspects of your website with the objective ofimproving search visibility. Optimizing your site for indexing and crawlability are the pillars of technical optimization.

Technical SEO is actually part of on-page SEO, which focuses on improving on-page elements to get higher rankings, as opposed to off-page SEO which deals with enhancing your website’s exposure through external channels.

The most appropriate time to consider technical SEO is when the website is being constructed. Otherwise, you’ll need a lengthy technical SEO audit to identify and fix infrastructural problems, with uncertain periods of downtime as changes are made.

Why You Need To Focus On Technical SEO

An effective SEO strategy is always a conjunction of content optimization, optimal user experience and a strong technical SEO foundation.

Think about it. It doesn’t matter how great your content is if nobody can find it. If your website has crawlability and site structure issues, web crawlers will have a hard time figuring out what your site is about, and they’ll move on.

Despite the importance of technical SEO, a study found that a significant amount of web pages are still plagued with technical issues. Among the 450 million pages and 100,000 websites that were analyzed, researchers found that broken internal links and user-friendliness issues were high on the list.

Top Technical SEO Practices

Now that we’re clear on the importance of technical SEO, let’s look at the best practices of conducting technical SEO:

Fast-Loading Web Pages

Users demand snappy websites; they don’t have time to wait around for a page to load. In fact, Google says that with every second that it takes for your website to load, you lose readers and your bounce rate increases.

What’s more, Google prioritizes page speed to the point that it considers page speed as a ranking factor for mobile devices.

Unfortunately, most webmasters overlook page speed in their overall on-page SEO strategies, and end up hurting their site’s user experience.

Here are some ways you can speed up your site:

  • Optimize your website with Google’s recommended updated page speed report.
  • Make use of caching to minimize transmission delay.
  • Use fast hosting.
  • Use Accelerated mobile pages (AMPs) to improve loading time. Google rolled out this short project to help webmasters develop fast mobile pages.
  • Keep the use of plugins and scripts to a minimum by minimizing HTTP requests.
  • Use a fast DNS provider.
  • Compress your webpages and make sure your image files are as small as possible.
  • Improve your site’s code, such as getting rid of unnecessary line breaks, spaces or indentation. (You can use RankGenie to optimize HTML code and improve page speed.)

Improve Your Site’s Architecture

The next important element in our technical SEO strategy is creating a savvy site architecture that’s also SEO friendly.

Let’s see what elements we need to optimize a website’s architecture:

Optimize the URL Structure

URLs describe the web page for both the users and search engines.

Make sure your website has a clear, consistent and user-friendly URL structure.

  • Use lowercase characters
  • Avoid using unnecessary words or characters
  • Use ‘–‘ to separate words in the URL
  • Include target keywords in the URL, but avoid keyword stuffing.
  • Make sure your URLs are descriptive yet brief

For example, replace a WordPress generated URL:

http://www.domain.com/best-technical-seo-best-practices-for-beginners

with…

http://www.domain.com/technical-seo

Remember: if you optimize URLs well for SEO, they can also act as a ranking factor.

Specify a Preferred Domain

Think of all the ways your target audience can type in your website address.

For example, they may type:

  • http://www.yourdomain.com; or
  • http://yourdomain.com; or
  • https://www.yourdomain.com

Make sure only ONE of these versions is accessible. The rest should redirect to the canonical version—‘preferred’ version of the webpage.

Optimize For Breadcrumb Menus

A breadcrumb menu, or a ‘breadcrumb trail’, is a type of navigation that reveals the website’s hierarchy and indicates where the reader is currently. Here’s an example:

breadcrumb trail in SEO

A breadcrumb menu provides two basic purposes:

  • It gives search engines a hint about the structure of the website.
  • It helps in navigation, allowing the user to navigate the site without having to press the back button on the browser.

Breadcrumb menus are especially recommended for huge websites that have a large hierarchy, or e-commerce sites that offer many products.Note: Breadcrumbs are part of a secondary navigation scheme, and they shouldn’t replace primary navigation.

Add a Secure Socket Layer (SSL)

Security is Google’s top priority, which is why it needs to be your top priority too. In fact, during a Google I/O developer conference, experts called for ‘HTTPS everywhere’—encouraging the adoption of HTTPS across the digital space.

You can do this by installing an SSL on your server; it enables your website to be accessed using HTTPS instead of HTTP. HTTPS indicates that the information transferred between the server and your website (such as personal data, usernames, passwords, etc.) is encrypted; it’s an additional way to establish your users’ trust.

Note: When enabling SSL on your account, make sure you follow the migration procedure to the new domain carefully, making sure you don’t lose your rankings in the process.

Make Sure Your Website Is Crawlable For Search Engines

Search engines use robots to crawl your website; these robots follow links to discover web content. A great internal linking structure ensures that these bots understand the most important content on your website through meaningful page titles and page headings.

Optimize Your Robots.Txt

A Robots.txt file resides in the root directory of your site; it’s a text file that gives the robots instructions as to which pages they can and cannot crawl on your site.

The main purpose of the robots.txt file is to manage crawler traffic to your site.

Sometimes, webmasters unintentionally block their JS and CSS files in the robots.txt file. If these files are blocked, search engines wouldn’t be able to find out if your website works properly.

Learn more about how the robots.txt works, here. Google announced that it is working towards making the robots.txt protocol an internet standard.

Optimize Your Site’s XML Sitemap

Simply put, an XML Sitemap is an XML file that lists all the web pages of your site. It essentially serves as a ‘search roadmap’ for search engines, telling crawlers exactly where each web page is.

An XML Sitemap contains useful information about each page, including:

  • How frequently a web page is updated;
  • When it was last modified;
  • And what priority it has on your website

How to Optimize It?

Since the XML sitemap acts as the starting point for most spiders, make sure your sitemap is automatically updated when a page is updated or when a new page is published.

Next, submit your sitemap to Google Search Console to check its status.

Here’s the part that most webmasters forget: you also have to add the sitemap locations to the robots.txt file.

Add Structured Data Markup

Structured data has been gaining more and more importance over the past few years because of it heavily influence on Google Search Results.

Structured data is the codeyou add to your website that helps search engines better understand the context of your web content. It describes your data in a language that is better understandable by search engines, allowing them to index your website more effectively. For instance, you can tell search engines which recipes you have on your site or the kind of products you sell. The catch is to provide all this information in a structured format—such as in the form of content blocks—so that search engines can easily understand it.

Other Benefits of Using Structured Data

Structured data enhances the presentation of your listings through featured snippets. Let’s look at an example:

Recipe Snippet

The above screenshot is of a rich snippet, which highlights useful information right within the search results. The star ratings and reviewer information in the snippet has been added with the use of structured data.

Needless to say, featured snippets improve your site’s click-through rate (CTR), generating additional traffic to your web pages.

Thus, adding structured data to your site is worth the effort.

Adopt a Mobile-First Approach

Having a mobile-friendly site isn’t optional anymore; Google has already shifted to mobile-first indexing, which means that it now uses your site’s mobile version to crawl and index.

Your site’s mobile-friendliness is determined by its responsive design and mobile-oriented structure. A responsive website design adjusts itself automatically, allowing it to be read and navigated easily on any device. What’s more, 8 in 10 users are likely to stop engaging with sites that don’t display well on their devices. Meaning, if your web pages are hostile to mobile users, you’re likely to take a hit in SERPs.

Concluding Thoughts

Technical SEO is a broad and ever-evolving topic that covers a broad range of on-page elements that are optimized for search engines.

Like in most cases, once you’ve deployed a comprehensive technical SEO strategy, you won’t have to optimize your site for technical SEO again—other than conducting periodic SEO audits.

Plus, there are several SEO monitoring tools available on the internet that can help you make the most of technical SEO with the help of advanced algorithms and personalized solutions.

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