August 30, 2023
On-page SEO (search engine optimization) and keyword research get a lot of attention. But technical SEO is just as important to maximize ranking potential and search visibility on search engine results pages, helping increase organic traffic to websites.
Before we get into how to optimize a website with technical SEO, it’s essential to understand what technical SEO is and how it’s different from on-page SEO. Technical SEO focuses on the technical aspects of a website, for example, the code, architecture, and mobile-friendliness of a site. On-page SEO is very content-focused and includes things like keyword research, title tag optimization, and content structure. A cohesive SEO strategy that includes technical and on-page reviews and practices is critical to organic success.
A clear hierarchy of pages and content topics helps users and crawlers identify areas of expertise and authority a site has related to those topics. Clearly organized information using folders and sub-folders makes it easy for users and crawlers to find what they are looking for. Crawlers use this information to index content and display results on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for related queries. Usually, folders contain broad topics of information, and sub-folders contain subsets of the broad topic. Individual pages dive one level deeper into a specific area of focus.
Once a hierarchy is clearly defined and implemented, a sitemap needs to be created and submitted to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. A sitemap helps search engines crawl a website efficiently and effectively. Sitemaps can also help alert crawlers when new content is published and how it is organized. Usually, a CMS will automatically create an XML sitemap.
Best practices for sitemaps:
Once you have your site structured and well-organized, complete a site audit to identify any issues that are occurring. These issues include broken links, missing alt text, redirect loops, or duplicate content. But what do each of these mean?
Broken Links are links that no longer work or never did. These occur when a page or website has been deleted, a URL has been mistyped, or a page has been moved to a new URL without a redirect.
Missing alt text can also flag an error. Screen readers use alt text to describe an image, which is very important for accessibility. Identifying images that are missing alt text and adding descriptive copy will rid your site of these errors.
Redirect loops occur when a URL has a 301 redirect to a page with a 301 redirect to a page with a 301 redirect to a page with a 301 redirect… and so on. This error can occur accidentally if website hierarchy and structure have changed multiple times. Place the redirect to the final page on each redirected page to avoid a redirect loop.
Duplicate content is flagged when the exact same content appears in two places, either internally or externally. Internally, ensure that all content is unique. Any content that is the same should use a canonical to point to the URL that should be indexed. To avoid duplicate content from external sites, ensure that content is unique and original.
Prioritizing user experience is extremely important to how actual people experience your website. First and foremost, make sure that your site and all content, including images, is secure. If a site is insecure, Google will warn users and force them to acknowledge the lack of security before continuing their browsing journey. This is a massive barrier for users, especially if a form exists or payment information is captured on the site.
Google finished its switch to mobile-first indexing in May 2023, placing the importance that a website is mobile-friendly at the top of accessibility and user experience. Luckily, Google offers a mobile-friendly testing tool for free that can identify quickly if a site is usable on mobile.
Core Web Vitals can help site owners determine if key user experience areas need improvement. Core Web Vitals reports are based on real user experience and, thus, a great indicator of actual performance. There are four metrics associated with Core Web Vitals, which are reported as Good, Need improvement, or Poor. Each is included below with a brief explanation of what it measures.
Ensuring a website and its pages respond quickly facilitates an optimal user experience. To maximize page speed, optimize image sizes and/or use a CDN (content delivery network) and check to make sure code is minified and doesn’t contain outdated plug-ins, APIs, or tags.
Structured data alerts search engines to key elements on a website. Schema.org is a community that creates, maintains, and promotes structured data. It was founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex and is used by most search engines to parse information. Using structured data properly can boost a site’s visibility on SERPs and give users important information, like price, reviews, or event information. For specialty sites, like news publishers, structured data can indicate to search engines that a particular article is a news article. There are over 800 types of schema markup that can be added to a website or individual page.
For enterprise sites, proper server configuration can have a massive impact on SEO. For any site, using a reputable hosting provider is extremely important. If available, server settings should be configured to include a maximum upload size for assets, capture error logs, and utilize caching settings.
Technical SEO is an essential part of any website's overall SEO strategy. Following the tips in this article can help ensure your website is properly structured, crawlable, and user-friendly. This will make it easier for search engines to find and index your content, leading to improved rankings and more organic traffic.
Here are some of the key takeaways from this article:
If you need help with technical or on-page SEO, don’t hesitate to contact us and get started!