Beginners Guide to Technical SEO

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What is Technical SEO?

For old-school marketing professionals, the term “technical SEO” means optimizing an entire website or a web page crawled and indexed by Googlebot. However, the goal behind conducting technical SEO is not merely limited to on-page optimization. The goals also include improving the overall ranking of the concerned webpage in search engine results pages.

Some essential aspects of technical SEO include crawling, indexing, rendering, and website architecture. Going a step deeper to understand technical SEO, results are achieved by optimizing sitemaps, meta tags, JavaScript, internal linking, keywords, HTML, the structure of the information, and more.

Technical search engine optimization makes the website faster, easier to crawl, and understandable for the search engine algorithm.

It is a part of on-page SEO practice, which improves some aspects of your website to rank higher on search engines. In this technical SEO guide, we will discuss the following topics:

Why do you Need Technical SEO?

When an entrepreneur starts an online business, he has to create a business strategy to improve engagement and increase the conversion rate. For online businesses to be acknowledged by their target audience, they have to rank better in search results. Google has defined more than 200 parameters to ensure the best possible results come up for each query entered by a user.

While Google keeps improving its algorithm, it considers different factors such as page loading speed, web programming, and others to enhance the visitors’ browsing experience. So, if you conduct technical search engine optimization activities, Googlebot crawls the website and understands it. If the site is well-optimized, then the search engine might reward the website with an improved ranking.

If the right on-page SEO changes are not implemented, not only will you be missing the audience from your website, but the search engine might also lower the ranking on the search engine results pages.

Note – You will be blocked from the search engine, and the crawler will not be able to crawl the website if the website admin accidentally adds trailing slash in the wrong place in the robot.txt file. These technical SEO tips are not just to please the search engines, but to make the website fast, understandable, and easy to use for the users.

Benefits of Technical SEO

Businesses across verticals should invest in technical search engine optimization. But it is essential to understand why an online business needs technical SEO. Let us know the benefits of Technical SEO:

1 Be Seen Research

There are more than 2 billion people online, out of which 93% start their online experience by entering a string on a search engine. As per the statistics, billions of people might be searching for a business like yours. Search engine optimized websites stand a better chance to reach the target audience and create a new opportunity.

2 Quality Traffic

By conducting different technical SEO activities, the quality traffic can be invited for a business through search engines as people are trying to find an answer to the problem your business solves. The general idea behind technical SEO is to pull traffic to your website, which is quite the opposite of advertisements, where you push them to your business. It is safe to assume that people who click on your website in search results are already interested in your products or services.

3 Improved Conversions

People who click on search engine results and land on your website are more likely to convert. Technical SEO positions your website higher on the search engine and might yield better conversions and traffic for your business.

4 Reduced Acquisition Cost

One of the best benefits of SEO is that it is almost free of cost. Compared to paid advertisements, it is far less expensive. For any business, the only cost would be to hire an SEO expert. To improve the ranking in search results and reap the benefits from SEO, you need to understand different aspects of technical SEO.

5 Long Term Benefits

Though the technical SEO results may take longer to appear, it is going to bring business for a more extended period. Only if the competition is increasing at a fast pace and a significant number of changes are introduced in the search algorithm, a business may lose its position on search engines.

6 Builds Trust and Credibility

As search results continue to improve with updates in the search algorithm, people trust search engines. On a typical day, people use the Google search engine several times to find solutions to the questions. If your website is ranking higher, you will be able to gain your customers’ trust as nearly 37% of search engine users click the first organic link.

7 Increases Brand Awareness

If a business forgets about the conversion and gives more priority to brand awareness, then technical SEO is the best way to go ahead. People will become aware of your brand if you are using the right techniques. People may not always come on search engines with the intent to purchase, but brand awareness will help customers buy in the future.

It’s much easier to double your business by doubling your conversion rate than by doubling your traffic.

– Jeff Eisenberg

8 Increases Website Referral

One of the benefits of technical SEO is that it will help you gain a referral. Your customers or website visitors are more likely to refer you to their friends if you rank higher on search engines.

9 Technical SEO is Measurable

The best things are those which you can measure and know where you are going wrong. You can check on the increase or decrease in conversions; the organic ranking is also an indicator of the SEO performance of your website.

10 Launch into a New Market

Technical SEO will help you break into new markets. Once your website is launched and optimized for the current market, you can move on to other markets by optimizing your website for different keywords. The keywords that you choose can help you in reaching new markets and going global.

11 Increases Business Value

Your business becomes more valuable when positioned higher on the search engine results pages. It is a useful and tangible asset for your business in case you plan to sell your business. All this because SEO tends to sustain for a longer time.

12 Integrates Marketing Activities

All your marketing activity can be channelized around one activity – technical SEO. Your web designing, content writing, social media activities, advertisement, and others, can influence SEO. So, when working on any marketing activity, keeping SEO in mind is highly relevant.

13 Improve User Experience

Search engines have made the algorithms to ensure that the user gets the best experience and relevant information. To rank higher, you need to showcase relevant content, thus increasing the visitors’ experience.

14 Improve Safety and Security

Technical SEO rules force businesses to make the website secure and safe for users. A secure website will help in ranking higher on search engine results pages.

Fundamentals of Technical SEO

Your website is at the epicenter of all your digital marketing efforts, but many businesses still start thinking about it after the website is designed or redesigned. Websites usually lack on technical SEO and digital marketing front due to the absence of a technical SEO professional. This will only lead to the website going back and forth from the development and alteration process. Web design is essential, but technical SEO is equally important and is the backbone to get traffic to the website as it is essential to design for the user experience.

1 Programming

Your website is at the epicenter of all your digital marketing efforts, but many businesses still start thinking about it after the website is designed or redesigned. Websites usually lack on technical SEO and digital marketing front due to the absence of a technical SEO professional. This will only lead to the website going back and forth from the development and alteration process. Web design is essential, but technical SEO is equally important and is the backbone to get traffic to the website as it is essential to design for the user experience.

1.a. HTML SEO Tips

Web developers might know everything about the language they are well versed with but still face problems when developing an SEO-optimized website. A standard checklist can make it possible for developers by following the webmaster guidelines. This checklist includes points like website speed, structure data, HTML improvement, cross-platform compatibility, and other development tasks from a developer’s perspective in the context of SEO.

We can get to know the potential roadblocks associated with website development life cycle if we analyze these points in detail. The items in this checklist are available on the Google webmaster website, which will ensure the development of an SEO-optimized website, thus ensuring the best user experience for the audience.

a. Be Mobile-First

Make sure that you consider the mobile-first approach, which has been adopted by Google. Figure out if your website is mobile-friendly. For a developer, mobile-friendly can mean two different things – does the mobile site adhere to standard development techniques, or does the site utilize a separate mobile domain.

Your mobile site should be developed so that the URL structure does not result in duplicate content. Duplicate content issues can arise when multiple domains are used to showcase the same content. One way to save from this issue is by using rel=canonical for desktop sites making it the source.

Other web programming aspects of making sure when developing a website from a technical SEO point of view:

b. Embrace Responsive Web Design

Responsive website design is an effective way to repurpose the code for different devices such as smartphones, desktops, and tablets. The HTML code remains the same for each screen size, but to impart an immersive viewing experience, the CSS language is used to manipulate the visual placement.

For technical SEO, CSS language has different meta tags, which can be leveraged to adjust the website content for different screen sizes. To begin with, the meta viewport tag needs to be set for a specific screen size. The code sample looks something like this:

Embed Code-

<html>
<head>
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">
</head>
<body>
</body>
</html>

c. Code your Structured Data Properly

To write successful structured data code, you need to check the schema.org and validate it with a tool offered by Google.

d. Check your Robot.txt File

To block access to the domain before the website goes live, it can be done by modifying the robot.txt file present on the server space.

e. Instances of Staging Site Subdomain

It is possible through the use of efficient find and replace technique to search for and replace any staging site subdomain instantly.

f. Check for HTML Errors

Most common HTML errors may lead to the poor rendering of your website on different web browsers. This, in turn, can cause problems related to website speed and user experience. Not directly but can in-directly impact the ranking of your website.

g. Check for Other Technical Errors

One of the most significant coding errors is to use polyglot documents or documents coded with one document type and implemented on a different platform with different document types.

h. Efficient Code Layout

The code layout can impact the rendering time, overall site speed, and website’s final performance. For the server, it is a crucial step to make it right.

i. Check Image Issues

Images are used to design aspects of website creation, but a developer or designer must be meticulous when adding images, especially the image file size. To improve the performance, images can be uploaded separately on the CDN server.

j. Plug-ins

Rouge plug-ins can cause technical SEO issues, especially when they add unnecessary links to the website’s footer.

k. Gzip Compression

This helps the server to compress files efficiently for a faster transfer to the network. Most servers nowadays have this compression, but website owners need to check this beforehand.

Good SEO work only gets better over time. It’s only search engine tricks that need to keep changing when the ranking algorithms change.
– Jill Whalen

1.b. JavaScript SEO Tips

It is quite common for web administrators to unknowingly ignore how JavaScript impacts the ranking of a website in search engine results. Web developers around the world understand the power that comes by using JavaScript, which makes this language almost impossible to ignore. For search engine optimization, this programming language adds a new dimension while creating power dynamic websites.

The need to optimize JavaScript as an essential part of technical SEO arises as the Googlebot executes the JavaScript code before the actual HTML content. For web admins or SEO professionals, it is important to understand how Googlebot handles the JavaScrip code. The first priority for Googlebot is to understand the Javascript code itself and then it executes the code using a headless Chromium web browser.

Developing a website can be an exciting endeavor, but it can become a time-consuming and challenging task if you do not consider these technical SEO points. Also, performing a website audit can help you understand why your website does not rank higher on search engines.

SEO Glossary

Wanna know the meaning of the technical SEO related terms? Check out our SEO Glossary and become SEO Pro.
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2. Architecture

Site architecture is divided into three different parts – site architecture, sitemap, and URL structure. We will discuss each section in detail:

2.a. Site Architecture

The better the structure of the site, the higher will your website rank on search engine results pages. Either your website is carefully developed with every aspect thought about, then your website will have a SEO-friendly website structure, but if you are impatient regarding this step, you will probably end up with a jumbled disorganized structure.

Here are some of the benefits of site architecture:

  • A good site architecture means excellent user experience
  • A well-planned site architecture provides your website site links
  • A good site architecture means better crawling
  • A well-planned site structure is the core of good technical SEO

Steps to ensure perfect site architecture:

Map out the hierarchy of the website before starting to develop – If you have not yet developed a website then planning the hierarchy of your site is an easy task, and your site structure can be according to the SEO recommendations. Create a hierarchy on a whiteboard or laptop but make sure you follow these points while making the hierarchy:

  • Make sure your hierarchy is logical
  • The main categories of your website must be between 2-7
  • Plan the subcategories which will be placed under the main category

Create URL structures that match your site structure – The other most crucial point in site structure is the URL structure. Once you have mapped out the hierarchy of your website, it will be straightforward to decide the URL structure. Keep the main category ahead and subcategories behind it. It is essential to think about URL structuring beforehand to have an SEO friendly website. Your URLs will have real words, not symbols or digits.

Create your site navigation in HTML – Keep the code simple, and using HTML and CSS are the most straightforward and most natural approaches for the future too. Coding in JavaScript, Flash, and AJAX will limit the crawler’s ability to cover your site’s well-thought-out navigation and hierarchy.

Make sure you follow the shallow depth navigation structure approach – A shallow website is the one that requires three or fewer clicks to reach the desired page. Though your navigation will follow the site hierarchy but make sure it is not buried deep under many pages. Shallow websites perform better on search engines as well as user experience.

Create a header that lists your main navigation pages – The header of your web page must focus on the main category of your website. Anything else if you add on the header of the page will become confusing for the users. Users have become accustomed to having the header to navigate to other pages. User experience also depends on what people have been repetitively using on various websites.

Develop a comprehensive internal linking structure – Website owners do not need to get complicated with internal linking. The basic idea is that every page on the website should have a link to another page on the website. Your navigation should provide links to the main categories and subcategory pages, but you should also make sure that leaf-level pages have internal links.

2.b. Sitemap

What is a sitemap? A sitemap is an XML file containing a list of pages on your website that you want search engines to index and crawl. For a search engine, the sitemap is the guide for your website. To speed up the indexing process, the sitemap also has detailed information about each page, like the date on which it was created, when it was last modified, and more.

One of the most common questions asked by website owners is, which website needs sitemaps? According to Google, a sitemap will help:

  • Websites with many pages
  • Sites with lots of content that is not well linked
  • New websites
  • Websites with rich media content

Though this point has been segregated into different pointers, it merely means that most of the websites need a sitemap for their website to be crawled and indexed by search engine bots.

2.c. URL Structure

A URL is a human-readable text designed to replace the numbers (IP addresses) that computers use to communicate with servers. They also identify the file structure on the given website. A URL consists of 3 main things, which are the protocol, domain name, and path. Under path, the URL Structure is defined.

How does a URL matter for Technical SEO?

Improves the User Experience – If your URL structure is SEO-friendly, it makes it easier for humans and Googlebot to understand what the information will be on the webpage. If a URL is created after following the best practices, your website rank improves because of relevance.

Ranking – Through the pool of checklists that search engines have for ranking a website, URL is also one of them. It may seem to be a small part but has a lot of relevance as the search query depends on it.

Links – Cutting it short, URL structure can serve as an anchor text in itself when it is copied for guest blogs, social media, or linking purposes in general.

Best practice for URL Structuring:

  • Keeping the URL as simple, relevant, easy to read, compelling, and accurate will make sure that the user and search engines understand
  • Use hyphens to separate words
  • Use lower case letters
  • Avoid the use of URL parameters, unless necessary

3. Content

When we talk about content in technical SEO, it plays the most critical role. Further, we have divided this section into three main parts – structured data, duplicate content, and thin content.

3.a. Structured Data

Structure data, in general, is an organization data that conforms to a specific format. Indeed, it is not just important for SEO but other things too. If a website wants a piece of content to be representative of a “thing” – like a profile page, an event page, or a job posting, its code needs to be written correctly.

With the addition of structured data, a site converts its HTML from an unstructured mesh to something much easier to understand. There are mainly four different ways to structure data, such as – microdata, JSON-LD, RDFa +goodrelation, and microformat.

The structured data is used primarily in the following areas:

  • Rich Snippets
  • Knowledge graph
  • AMP
  • Google News
  • Contextual Understanding
  • Other search engines

Note – For any WordPress user, the Schema tool will help structure data, and this is one of the best options for any WordPress based website.

3.b. Duplicate Content

Have you ever heard of the term plagiarism? Whether you are a small organization or a multinational company, you are at risk if you have duplicate content. An entire block of content similar to two websites is duplicate content. Some content can be almost identical, and they also fall under the same category though Google does not penalize plagiarized content.

3.c. Thin Content

Let us now move on to what thin content is and how it is essential for content and technical SEO. Thin content was one of the main pointers for Google in its Panda algorithm update in 2011. According to Google, thin content is content that has little or no added value.

Better content is outweighing more content.
– Rand Fishkin

Many marketers working on this approach may get a warning on their Google search console or may be penalized by Google. One of the main objectives of search engines is to display content that is relevant and answers the queries shared by the users. Some ways to avoid thin content are:

  • Using unique content to provide meaning
  • Engaging users to the content and add value
  • Mixed content and content segmentation
  • Easy to understand and read
  • Responsive design
  • Solving some problems for the user. Targets pain points
  • Add supporting information like images, interlinking, and more

4. Localization and Internationalization

4.a. Localization

Every time you expand your business to a new part of the country, you re-write your website content to make it localized according to the target audience. This does not mean translating it word by word but also thinking in other aspects like currencies, units of measurement, and different customer expectations. Website localization has a good return on investment (ROI).

It helps you to reach a higher number of potential customers, increases brand awareness, and leads to higher revenues. It also boosts SEO value when done the right way. It gives a boost to the ROI if done correctly. Some of the ways to achieve localization are through:

  • Target relevant keyword to make language-specific SEO Strategy
  • Mark Translated pages through Hreflang tags
  • Optimize site speed for localized pages
  • Build local backlinks
  • Convenient URL Format

Good SEO work only gets better over time. It’s only search engine tricks that need to keep changing when the ranking algorithms change.
– Jill Whalen

4.b. Internalization

International brands have the target audience, and their path has been set for them. A lot of time is spent making the website according to all the countries visiting the website. But the most important thing to do is to make the search engines understand how the website has been made international. Here are some of the ways:

  • Use the keyword planner tool to identify country-specific keywords
  • While automatic translation is effective but avoids it all costs
  • Use hreflang tags like en, es, it, in, and more at relevant places
  • Provide an option to the users to switch the website language

Tip

For custom websites, third-party integration can also be used to save time. Ideal examples include Google Translator application programming interface API.
Read More

5. Redirection

Redirects are an essential part of ensuring the user experience of the website remains intact. Here are some of the ways to ensure redirects are done correctly:

5.a. Canonical Tag

Most businesses and entrepreneurs alike make use of dynamic websites such as blogs, SaaS-based platforms, and others. In a few cases, the website or content management system is custom developed, but in most cases, a content management system is used. Common examples of content management systems include – WordPress, Blogger, and others.

While managing a static website is quite straightforward, and the web developer or the website admin is in complete control. Still, the problem arises when a content management system is managing the website, and the web admin is not fully aware of which links are being generated dynamically.

To prevent the duplicacy of the content issue, canonical tag has been made. To make it clear to the search engine which content is the original content and which content to index, canonical tags are used. The URL which the business wants the search engine to crawl and list has the tag added to it.

Best practices for canonical tag:

  • Canonical tags can be reference itself
  • Homepage must have a canonical tag
  • Keep a check on your canonical tags
  • Do not send mixed signals
  • Canonalize cross-domain duplicacy
While following the above-mentioned best practices will enable an entrepreneur to resolve the issues of duplicacy, it is equally essential to audit the same. To audit the canonical tags, different approaches can be used. Few of the methods include – going to the source file and viewing the HTML output of the webpage, using third-party tools from Moz and ahref to audit, and more.

5.b. The 404 Error Webpage

Most already know what a 404 page is, but for those of you who do not know what it is then a 404 page is also known as the error page. An error page is displayed when a user tries to visit a page that does not exist on your website. Such a page that your server displays is the 404 error webpage.

There are two crucial elements associated with a 404 error page. The two aspects are – webpage design of the 404 error page and where the 404 page redirects the website visitor. When a user reaches this webpage, few things are bound to happen that is associated with the visitor’s expectations. Such things include:

  • Confusion – There are multiple ways a website visitor can reach the 404 error page. When that happens, confusion may take place, and the visitor may not know the next steps.
  • Denied Rewards – If there is a broken link that promised access to an essential piece of information the visitor was seeking, frustration may take place.
  • End up in an Unknown Place – As explained above, it is important to consider where the user will land once he reaches the 404 error page. Most tools include the option to redirect the user to the homepage. At the same time, it is somewhat acceptable but not recommended as it further raises different questions in the mind of the visitor.

Those who seek to address the problems mentioned above associated with the 404 error web page need to put more effort into researching their broken links and consider creating a custom 404 error webpage. There are plugins available for different content management systems like WordPress, which gives the option to create a 404 page. If no content management system is being used, inspiration can be taken from other beautiful and useful 404 error webpages.

5.c. 301

When a webpage moves permanently to another address, 301 is used. The web browser plays the primary role which understands the redirection rule. There are many ways to create a 301 redirect. For web admins who use the content management system, WordPress, the use of a plugin is advised. For custom websites, the 301 redirects can be applied manually.

Popular WordPress plugin names include 301 Redirects – Easy Redirect Manager, 301 Redirects, Blogger 301 Redirect, Link to URL/Post, Advance 301 and 302 Redirect, and Easy Link Tracker. For custom websites, the 301 redirects can be created using the .htaccess file, which is often found in server hosting space powered by Apache.

Conclusion

Google search algorithm gives priority to different aspects of technical SEO. In this guide, we discussed various activities of technical SEO along with their benefits, implementation of a few activities, and general information on programming, architecture, content, localization, redirection, and more.