Technical SEO refers to the optimisation of the technical elements of a website to improve it’s performance and bring it in line with current best practice. Generally when someone refers to technical SEO they are pointing to strategies specifically related to boost search engine rankings, but many elements are also aimed at improving the overall user experience.
A website that has a sound technical foundation will be one that operates efficiently and is easy to use.
Some key aspects of technical SEO can include:
- Ensuring search engine bots can crawl and index the website’s pages efficiently
- Improving load speed and performance to provide a great user experience
- Checking the website provides a seamless experience across different devices
- Introducing a URL structure and architecture that’s both user and search engine friendly
- Implementing structured data markup to help search engines understand the content
- Creating a sitemap that shows search engines a clear website structure
- Setting up tools to monitor and track user insights
Why is technical SEO important?
If the pages on your website are not efficiently accessible to search engines, and don’t provide a great experience for your users, they’ll struggle to rank highly on search engines. Plus, once someone does find your website, if they are presented with a confusing site architecture, they won’t be able to find what they need and ultimately leave.
If your website doesn’t work and look great on all devices, or they are a slow to load, this also provides a poor experience to users. And more importantly, both these issues are confirmed Google ranking factors.
Let’s talk about website crawling
The very first step to technical SEO is ensuring that search engines can crawl all the content on your website. Crawling is the way search engines find websites and begin to understand what their content is about. If they can’t crawl, or find that it’s taking too long to crawl, they simply won’t rank your content.
Crawling occurs when search engines find and follow links around your website. By linking to new content from pages you know search engines already know about you can ensure they find it efficiently. For example, this article is listed on our Digital Academy page, which is included in the website navigation. We know search engines know about the Digital Academy so every time they visit our website, they will see any new content listed.
Here’s some ways you can help search engines to crawl your website:
Have an SEO friendly website structure:
Your website structure / architecture is the term used to describe how your web pages are linked together. An effective structure is one that’s setup to help search engines and users to find your content efficiently.
A typical website structure will have a home page, which includes a navigation menu that links through to different parts. Then subpages are linked to from those. All pages should be found through just a few clicks from the home page. A structure like this will mean your website is organised into a logical hierarchy.
Submit your sitemap to Google
A “technical” sitemap will be in an XML file which contains a list of all the pages you want search engines to find, and more importantly where to find them. Once you have an XML sitemap ready you need to submit it to Google using Google Search Console.
Let’s look at indexing
Once search engines have crawled your pages they will then attempt to understand the content. At this point they will “index” the content, and pages must be indexed before they will rank in the search results. The content will be stored in databases, so this is why any updates you make to pages will take time for search engines to understand.
The easiest way to check if a website has been indexed is by simply searching for it on Google. A quick hack is to perform a search like the following:
By searching for that exact text on Google it will show you all the pages on this website that have been indexed.
The use of Noindex
Often they’ll be pages not your website you want to intentionally not be indexed. This is common of eCommerce websites for example where you can hide away the checkout or account pages – here’s some other reasons why you might not want a page to be indexed:
- Temporary or incomplete content you’re working on
- Avoid duplicate content issues that exist of different landing pages which can dilute your SEO efforts
- Development or stage environments that you don’t want to be discovered by search engines
To use the “noindex” tag, you need to insert the following line of code within the HTML head section of the page you want to exclude from indexing:
meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”
This tag tells search engine bots that they should not include the page in their index. As a result, the page will not show up in search engine results pages (SERPs).
It’s worth noting that the “noindex” tag does not prevent the page from being crawled or accessed by users. It only tells search engines not to include it in search results. If you want to prevent search engines from accessing the page altogether, you can use the “disallow” directive in the robots.txt file or implement other methods like password protection.
Master technical SEO best practice
Virtually all website addresses will now begin with https rather than http as it’s more secure, and has been a ranking factor since 2014. It protects sensitive information such as payment details and logins by creating a level on encryption between the website and the hosting environment.
You’ll instantly recognise a website that uses https as it’ll have a padlock icon in the address bar. And most browsers will now mark websites as “not secure” if they don’t.
All https websites will have an SSL certificate installed which authenticates it’s identity and establishes a secure connection.
Have only one version of your website
All search engine crawlers and website users should only be able to access one version of your website, i.e. it doesn’t exist on multiple versions of the domain like one that starts www and one that doesn’t. Having more one version will create duplicate content issues and dilute your backlink profile.
All versions of your domain should redirect into the main version.
Work on load speed
Improving the speed of your website can have a huge impact on how user friendly your website is. Your visitors will be on the go and have little patience for a slow loading website.
Speed is also a crucial factor for search engines like Google. Websites that load faster are more likely to appear higher in search results, gaining better visibility and attracting more organic traffic.
Have a mobile-friendly website
You can’t ignore needed a mobile friendly website as Google now uses mobile first indexing – meaning it uses the mobile version of your website to rank content.
By providing a mobile-friendly experience, you make it easier for users to navigate your site, read content, and interact with your calls to action. This leads to increased user satisfaction, longer session durations, lower bounce rates, and higher conversion rates.
Use structured data
Structured data provides additional context and meaning to web content, making it easier for search engines to understand and display relevant information in search results.
It allows website owners to provide explicit details about their content, such as product information, reviews, events, recipes, and more. By incorporating structured data markup, search engines can extract and interpret this information more accurately, leading to enhanced search result features like rich snippets, knowledge panels, and other visually appealing elements.
Find a resolve broken pages
Encountering a 404 error, or “Page Not Found,” can frustrate users when they attempt to access non-existent webpages on a website.
404 errors result in a poor user experience. Users may become discouraged and abandon your website if they repeatedly encounter broken links or missing content. By addressing and removing 404 errors, you create a smoother and more user-friendly browsing experience, keeping visitors engaged and satisfied.
Search engines consider broken links when evaluating a site’s quality and relevance. A high number of 404 errors could result in lower search engine rankings and reduced visibility. By proactively removing 404 errors, you demonstrate your commitment to providing a seamless experience for users and increase the likelihood of retaining traffic and maintaining search engine positions.
Stay on top of it all
No part of technical SEO should be treated as a one-time project. New problems will crop up over time as new pages are added and best practice evolves. Regularly monitoring is crucial to catching issues as they arise.